Beethoven Violin Concerto Urtext Worthy of Its Subject
Scholarly analysis of Beethoven's Violin Concerto by Jonathan Del Mar; plus medley of beloved songs by George M. Cohan; cellist David Popper's Op. 14; Argentine-Uruguayan 'Tango Trio' for violin, cello, and piano
Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61. Edited by Jonathan Del Mar. Urtext edition by Bärenreiter. Full Score BA 9019, €38.95. Critical Commentary BA 9019 40, €49.95. Piano Reduction BA 9019 90, €15.95. Violino Principale BA 9019a, €15.95. Cadenzas by 13 Composers, BA 9020, €19.95.
For this new urtext of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, the noted English musicologist and Beethoven specialist Jonathan Del Mar has undertaken a careful study and comparison of all available sources, including Beethoven’s autographs, copyists’ manuscripts, first printings in Vienna and London—all with Beethoven’s corrections. According to Bärenreiter, this is the first edition faithful to Beethoven’s markings of phrasing, articulation, dynamics, tuttis, and solos. The urtext comes in several volumes: a full score; a piano reduction; two solo parts, one unedited, the other fingered and bowed by Detlev Hahn; a critical commentary; and a compilation of cadenzas by 13 composers (see Master Class, for a detailed summary of that edition).
The scholarly core of this work is Del Mar’s critical commentary, a thorough description and discussion of all sources and a bar-by-bar analysis of their differences and comparative authenticity, punctuated with parenthetical observations and followed by five appendices. The commentary includes a detailed, though shorter, analysis of Beethoven’s piano transcription of the violin part. Its main interest lies in the cadenzas Beethoven composed for it—these piano cadenzas have inspired numerous arrangements for violin, one of which appears in Bärenreiter’s compilation of 13 violin cadenzas.
The edition’s musical text is clearly printed and generously spaced. Each volume has a preface, footnotes, bar numbers, and rehearsal letters. The score prints the orchestra’s first-violin part in the solo staff in small notes, conforming to the 18th-century custom of letting the soloist, who doubled as conductor, join in the tuttis.
Both the edited and unedited Violino Principale parts print out the tuttis, indicating the orchestration, so the soloist can decide when to play and when to rest. The fingerings and bowings are serviceable, but flawed: shifts over many positions and between whole steps generate inexpressive slides; string-crossings disrupt melodic lines and tone colors; the bow is often badly distributed, arriving in the wrong place at crucial moments. Players will have to find their own solutions.
Violinists approaching the concerto for the first time should not be intimidated by its formidable scholarship. Playing this sublime masterpiece is one of the most rewarding, magical experiences in all music. —Edith Eisler
Yankee Doodle Dandy/You’re a Grand Old Flag by George M. Cohan. Arranged by Gene Milford. Latham Music, $14.95.
A famous American patriot of song and stage, George M. Cohan (1878–1942) composed “The Yankee Doodle Boy” in 1904 for a Broadway show, and then, in 1906, he penned “You’re a Grand Old Flag” for a stage musical. But Cohan was famous his entire life, first for being part of a vaudeville family and then for striking out on his own as an actor, singer, playwright, dancer, director, and composer.
At the time of Cohan’s death, a movie about his life—Yankee Doodle Dandy, starring James Cagney—was playing in theaters. Though something of a superstar in his time, Cohan is remembered mainly through the two aforementioned songs, both performed in Cohan’s biographical film.
This arrangement in the key of F is intended for an intermediate level ensemble. All parts remain in first position, with Violin 1 using extension for high C.
Score and four parts are included
Dynamics and bowings are marked and rhythms are simple to follow.
Young string players will find this lively music enjoyable to play and will be introduced to familiar and beloved American tunes in this lively piece. —Bryn Monteith
Polonaise de Concert de Popper, Op. 14 by David Popper. Edited by Jeffrey Solow. International Music Company, $14.95.
The brilliant 19th-century cellist David Popper is best remembered for his études that run the gamut from easy to fiendishly difficult. But he was a renowned chamber musician and solo cellist of the Royal Opera House in Vienna and elsewhere. He created a repertoire that ranged from cello concertos to the Requiem for three cellos and orchestra to many, many short concert pieces. His "Polonaise de Concert, Op. 14," circa 1877, is one of those concert gems. Imbued with the characteristic Polonaise rhythmic underpinning, the "Polonaise de Concert" is a vibrant, flashy show piece for cello and piano that features everything from lush, singing melodies to challenging high-range octaves, and includes just about everything in between—double-stops, string crossings, flying spiccato. As a well-played encore, it could bring down the house.
This edition of Opus 14 is edited by cellist Jeffrey Solow, past president of the American String Teachers Association. His fingerings and bowings are tasteful and very helpful. He includes measure numbers as well, and both part and score are easy to read. Solow’s edition follows the 1922 Simrock reprint of the early Senff edition, circa 1875, labeled “Concert-Polonaise,” quite closely, and he is careful to notate the differences between actual slurs and his own suggested bowings. His fingerings tend to be easier and more comfortable than those in the Simrock reprint.
Cellist Jeffrey Solow, past president of the American String Teachers Association, has recently edited Popper’s Opus 14 Polonaise. Solow’s fingerings and bowings are tasteful and very helpful. He includes measure numbers as well and both part and score are easy to read. The 1922 Simrock reprint of the early Senff edition, circa 1875, labeled “Concert-Polonaise,” which is available online as a free download from the International Music Score Library Project, Petrucci Music Library, includes fingerings and bowings—assumedly from the composer himself. —Sarah Freiberg
Tango Trio for violin, cello, and piano, Op.71 by Miguel del Aguila. Peermusic, $24.95.
Born in 1957 in Uruguay, Miguel del Aguila is one of today’s most acclaimed living composers. Aguila moved to the United States in 1978 and received a degree from the San Francisco Conservatory.
After continuing studies in Vienna and finding success as a composer and pianist, he moved back to the States in 1992. His opera, orchestra, solo, and chamber music works have been published by Peermusic since 1986 and performed by professional musicians on stages worldwide.
Aguila’s “Tango Trio” was premiered by the New Arts Trio in 2002 at the Chautauqua Institution in New York. The 12-minute piece is an Argentine-Uruguayan tango with traditional elements of early tango along with unexpected modern flair. This edition is for violin, cello, and piano, but another version exists for clarinet, cello, and piano.
The piece is written for advanced musicians and some may find it to be rhythmically challenging.
The composer notes, “The tango rhythmic pattern is present through the entire work, but undergoes several tempo meter transformations, becoming at times highly syncopated and varied through asymmetrical groupings within the measure.”
Rich, melodic lines are mostly with the violin and cello, and the piano part provides the detailed texture of the tango, with light arpeggios and exciting rhythmic counterbalancing. —B.M.