Violin Concerto (Beethoven)
Ludwig van Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61, was written in 1806.
The work was premiered on 23 December 1806 in the Theater an der Wien in Vienna. Beethoven wrote the concerto for his colleague Franz Clement, a leading violinist of the day, who had earlier given him helpful advice on his opera Fidelio. The occasion was a benefit concert for Clement. However, the first printed edition (1808) was dedicated to Beethoven’s friend Stephan von Breuning.
It is believed that Beethoven finished the solo part so late that Clement had to sight-read part of his performance. Perhaps to express his annoyance, or to show what he could do when he had time to prepare, Clement is said to have interrupted the concerto between the first and second movements with a solo composition of his own, played on one string of the violin held upside down; however, other sources claim that he did play such a piece but only at the end of the program.
The premiere was not a success, and the concerto was little performed in the following decades.
The work was revived in 1844, well after Beethoven's death, with performances by the then 12-year-old violinist Joseph Joachim with the orchestra conducted by Felix Mendelssohn. Ever since, it has been one of the most important works of the violin concerto repertoire, and it is frequently performed and recorded today.
The work is in three movements:
- Allegro ma non troppo (D major)
- Larghetto (G major)
- Rondo. Allegro (D major)
The first movement starts with four beats on the timpani as the opening notes, and it has a duration of about 25 minutes. The second and third movements last about 10 minutes each. There is no break between the second and third movements. The entire work itself is approximately 45 minutes in duration.
Cadenzas for the work have been written by several notable violinists, including Joachim. The cadenzas by Fritz Kreisler are probably most often employed. More recently, composer Alfred Schnittke provided controversial cadenzas with a characteristically 20th-century flavor; violinist Gidon Kremer has recorded the concerto with the Schnittke cadenzas. New Klezmer-inspired cadenzas written by Airat Ichmatourov for Alexandre Da Costa in 2011 have been recorded by the Taipei Symphony Orchestra for Warner Classics and will be released in 2013.
The following violinists and composers have written cadenzas:
- Leopold Auer
- Joshua Bell
- Ferruccio Busoni
- Ferdinand David
- Mischa Elman
- Carl Flesch
- Joseph Hellmesberger, Sr.
- Jenő Hubay
- Joseph Joachim
- Fritz Kreisler
- Christiaan Kriens
- Ferdinand Laub
- Hubert Léonard
- Bernhard Molique
- Myron Polyakin
- Manuel Quiroga
- Camille Saint-Saëns
- Alfred Schnittke
- Edmund Singer (hu:Singer Ödön)
- Henri Vieuxtemps
- August Wilhelmj
Alternative versions 
Perhaps due to the Violin Concerto's lack of success at its premiere, and at the request of Muzio Clementi, Beethoven revised it in a version for piano and orchestra, which was later published as Opus 61a. For this version, which is present as a sketch in the Violin Concerto's autograph alongside revisions to the solo part, Beethoven wrote a lengthy, somewhat bombastic first movement cadenza which features the orchestra's timpanist along with the solo pianist. This and the cadenzas for the other movements were later arranged for the violin (and timpani) by Max Rostal, Eugène Ysaÿe, Michelangelo Abbado, Christian Tetzlaff and Wolfgang Schneiderhan.
More recently, it has been arranged as a concerto for clarinet and orchestra, by Mikhail Pletnev. In Popular Culture: The music from this concerto is used as a hidden clue in the 2013 movie "Now you See Me. "
- Eulenburg pocket score, preface, p.3
- Eulenburg pocket score, p. 3
- Steinberg, M. The concerto: a listener's guide, page 81. Oxford University Press, 1998.
- Ludwig van Beethoven. Konzert für Violine & Orchester D-dur Opus 61.[Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Wien, Mus. Hs. 17.538] Edited, with commentary (in German) by Franz Grasberger. Graz, 1979.
- Music Web International
- Beethoven, Ludwig van: Concerto for Violin and orchestra in D major op. 61. Score. Eulenburg 2007. EAS 130
- Beethoven, Ludwig van: Konzert für Violine & Orchester D-dur Opus 61. (Facsimile edition of autgraph full score) Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Wien, Mus. Hs. 17.538. Edited, with commentary (in German) by Franz Grasberger. Graz, 1979.
- Violin Concerto: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Complete performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra
- Complete performances from the Internet Archive by Jascha Heifetz/Arturo Toscanini & Fritz Kreisler/John Barbirolli.
- Theme from third movement
- The new Bärenreiter edition of Beethoven’s violin concerto
- Beethoven Violin Concerto at all-about-beethoven.com