Analysis of other Violin Concertos

I was traveling this last weekend, and while traveling I took the time to further analyse some violin concertos from other composers. The process I used in the analysis really has three steps.
    Review the score (without listening)
    Review the score (while listening)
    Indepth elemental analysis of the score

The first step, reviewing the score without music is to try and identify, motivic elements, reoccuring themes and gesturers and a sense of style used by the composer. The second step is to reaffirm my initial thought on how some of the elements sound, but to also gain a sense of placement of elements with accompaniment. It's one thing to look at a score, but when listening other aspects come leaping out which aren't necessarily obvious in the score, although it's important to determine if these leap out because of the written music or whether the performer took liberties highlighting something that isn't there in the original. The final step is to try and create an overall arch to the various elements, find out how they all fit together in terms of the whole. This process helps me really understand what makes (or breaks) a piece - and gives me ideas that I can incorporate into my own music.

Well, this weekend I reviewed Walton and Elgar (op 91). Perhaps the first thoughts that came to mind while looking at the score is the understanding why these are not performed with much regularity now. Both composers then to be a bit overly romantic in their writing, lush runs and sweeping harmonies filled out with strings. Granted, this is the age in which these composers were writing (although Walton's concerto was written in 1941, which could have been more avant-gard except it was in England which seemed to be lost in the romantic era for longer than the rest of Europe). Both concertos have some demanding elements for the soloist, but neither compare to the Tchaikoffsky or Shostakovich concertos in terms of complexity. The runs are fairly simple and very tonal. While there are double stops, there are only a few that really demand a stretch for the soloist and generally time is given to accomodate the demand.

There are some interesting harmonics in the Elgar, harmonic doublestops which might make this piece more interesting to attempt. However, in listening to the piece, I didn't find the harmonics to necessarily stand out as all that interesting or effective. This could be a recording issue, but I'm not sure it is. The placement of the harmonics with the accompaniment doesn't allow for them to be isolated, so we don't really hear the effects - and that's unfortunate.

Walton's concerto is particularly slushy in the recording. The sweeping strings are right out of the mid 30's hollywood sound. The piece could have been performed as background music to any number of films from the 1930's. Again, no surprise considering the time frame the music was written, however it doesn't tend to provide the kind of music that current performers are looking to perform.

I haven't started the final stage of the review process, but initial glances in the first two steps give me the impression the use of themes and motives are pretty transparent. Beethoven, in his later works, got fairly ingenious with the use of motives and how they developed, but in the violin concertos of Elgar and Walton I don't feel that is going to be the case.


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