Today being Valentine’s Day, the day of Love, Passion, Romance, and nothing is associated with the air of romance than the sound of strings – and above all the soprano tones of the violin. The violin is an absolute cornerstone in music setting out to convey these feelings, and even where music is not written for the violin most romantic music is subsequently arranged for the violin or to feature strongly the violin in a group production.
There is such a rich selection of music for the violin in this area. For a start there is all the Romantic Era violin concertos – names like Tchaikovsky, Bruch, Beethoven – and especially the second movements of these concertos, which are so obvious and well known that I need not elucidate on them here. Then there is the likes of the Conus violin concerto, which you may well not be familiar with and in the hands of Jascha Heifetz there is probably little that is more moving (the whole of the violin concerto is very well worth listening to but the second movement is an absolute must)
We then have the classical ‘Romance’ written for violin and piano or violin and orchestra.
There are again here so many, and starting with some of the most well known –
Beethoven Romance for violin and orchestra in F major:
Dvorak Romance for violin and piano
Camille Saint-Saens Romance for violin and orchestra in C major
And there are plentiful examples of Romances that are less well known but deserving of a more prominent place in the repertoire and our conciousness.
Take for example the wonderful Romances of Johanne Svendsen and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor:
And who has heard of the wonderful Romance for violin and orchestra by Fini Henriques…who? Yes, do check it out!
Joseph Joachim is well known to many as a famous virtuoso violinist and pedagogue, but he also wrote many excellent pieces for the violin, including a number of violin concertos and this Romance for violin ‘Romanze’:
Beyond the Romance there are many other pieces from the standard violin repertoire that conjure feelings of passion fit for any romantic setting and the wooing of a loved one, take for example Tchaikovsky’s Serenade Melancholique and Bruch’s Adagio Appassionato.
None play the Tchaikovsky piece with more emotional expression than Jascha Heifetz
Whilst Bruch’s Adagio Appassionato evokes a different range of emotions in an equally powerful way
You could start and end with that piece it is such a powerfully evocative piece, and yet still it is very under-represented in the repertoire.
Max Bruch was one of the great Romantic Era composers for strings and was, as can be heard from the above piece, so much more than just his violin concerto No.1, which it angered and frustrated him greatly that magnificent as that composition is was the only piece of his that anyone wanted to perform. Here are two more offerings from him that further that argument and demonstrate so beautiful his powers of composing romantically evocative pieces for the violin. Max Bruch’s Romance for violin and orchestra Op.42 and his Seranade for violin and orchestra Op.75
In both cases the soloist is Salvatore Accardo performing with the Leipzig Gerwandhaus Orchestra under Kurt Masur.
Next we have this pair of well known pieces by enigmatic Fritz Kreisler – Liebesleid and Liebesfreud
Arranged for the violin from other repertoire
I am just going to draw attention to a couple of stand out pieces here from a vast array.
One is a personal favourite of mine, by Gabriel Faure…aaah the romantic French, Paris and all…Apres un Reve, with my top pic of interpretation being by rising star Lana Trotovsek:
That must have been quite some dream that Faure had to wake up with the inspiration to write such a piece!
And the other not far behind in my books, again draws on the hand of Fritz Kreisler – Rachmaninov’s 18th variation of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini arranged for violin by Kreisler. Here performed by a child prodigy who endured a tragic life and left the world all too early with the world at his feet, something which appeared to be too much for him – the so talented Michael Rabin: