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Rode: Violin Concertos 7, 10 & 13 / Friedemann Eichhorn

Release Date: 02/24/2009 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570469   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Pierre Rode
Performer:  Friedemann Eichhorn
Conductor:  Nicolás Pasquet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Orchestra Kaiserslautern
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RODE Violin Concertos: No. 7; No. 10; No. 13 Friedemann Eichhorn (vn); Nicolás Pasquet, cond; Southwest German RO Kaiserlautern NAXOS 8.570469 (58:00)

Pierre Rode (1774–1830) and Rodolphe Kreutzer (1766–1831) are well known to all serious students of the violin for their technique building exercises in the form of etudes and caprices. Of the same generation were Viotti (1755–1824) with his 29 violin concertos and Pierre Baillot (1771–1842) with his L’art du Read more violon . But they were all outdone, if not undone, by their near contemporary from Genoa, Niccolò Paganini (1782–1840). These were the standard bearers of two competing schools of violin-playing and pedagogy, one Italian, the other Franco-Belgian. Kreutzer, despite his German-sounding name, and Rode were French, as was Baillot, and their approach to the instrument would lead to Vieuxtemps and through him to Wieniawski and thence to Ysaÿe. Paganini, on the other hand, was a tough act to follow. Other than Ernesto Camillo Sivori, Paganini’s sole pupil, the only violinist-composer of note to continue in the Italian’s footsteps was the Jewish Moravian Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst (1814–1865).

Not that casual acquaintance with the works of any of these violin wizards would reveal in any obvious way the more subtle differences in the application of their practices, for envelope-pushing, finger- and bow-bending, exhibitionistic virtuosity was the order of the day and the name of the game. The never-ending pursuit of one-upmanship superseded all else; the impossible was unplayable only until it was surpassed by the next even greater impossibility. An “I’ll show you,” attitude prevailed. Yet, for all its warping of musical values, the extension of the possible in violin technique opened the door to composers who were able to incorporate those technical advances into major, serious works. I doubt that the violin concertos of Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, and others could have been written had these earlier 19th-century virtuosos not provided the necessary tools.

Though Rode studied with Viotti, he later worked with Kreutzer and Baillot at the Paris Conservatory, contributing to the school’s official Violin Method . The French “way” mitigated some of the less graceful aspects of the Italian approach by introducing a greater refinement of tone production through smoother bowing and phrasing techniques. Some insight into this can be gained from a rather unlikely source: Beethoven. Rode’s 1812–13 concert tour brought him to Vienna, and it was for the violinist’s appearances there that Beethoven composed his last violin sonata, the No. 10 in G-Major. During its composition, the composer was in contact with Rode regarding his preferred style of playing. We know this from a letter Beethoven wrote to Archduke Rudolph, complaining, “We like to have more surging passages in our finales, but R did not consent to that.” Unusual for Beethoven to yield to anyone in matters musical, but we have in this sonata a clear example of the more elegant, aristocratic style that Rode and the French school preferred.

In addition to his coauthorship of the aforementioned Violin Method and his 24 Caprices so well beloved (?) by students, Rode composed 13 violin concertos, none of which has found favor among present day players. In this, Rode has ceded the playing field to his teacher, Viotti, whose concertos—at least some of them—are performed and recorded with relative frequency. This recent Naxos CD is in fact the only recording currently listed of any of Rode’s concertos, and I sincerely hope that its release changes that, for the works on this disc are, in my opinion, more appealing and of greater musical substance than are any of Viotti’s concertos I’ve heard, and that includes his famous No. 22 in A Minor recorded many times over.

No one who listens to these Rode concertos will be disappointed by a lack of virtuoso fireworks. There’s enough double-stopping, rapid runs, and bowing tricks to satisfy even the most insatiable appetites for hire-wire circus acts. But there is also a depth and breadth to Rode’s muse, and a sophisticated air to his melodic invention that elicits a strong emotional response and strikes a genuine responsive chord. Simply put, there is some exquisitely beautiful music here. And Friedemann Eichhorn, who is new to me, plays with a sweetness of tone and expressiveness of phrasing that grace Rode’s exceptional lyricism with the delicacy of a caress, all the while skirting the technical minefields as if they didn’t exist. Nowhere does Eichhorn’s tone turn coarse or his bowing become labored, even in the most fiendishly difficult passages. This is violin-playing of a caliber to match this extraordinary music. In a single stroke, Eichhorn and Naxos have done for Rode (and for us) what should have been done long ago. It’s my fervent hope that they will see fit to give us Rode’s remaining 10 concertos.

No fancier of the violin should be without this disc. It may even show up on my 2009 Want List.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin no 7 in A minor, Op. 9 by Pierre Rode
Performer:  Friedemann Eichhorn (Violin)
Conductor:  Nicolás Pasquet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Orchestra Kaiserslautern
Period: Romantic 
Written: c1803 
Concerto for Violin no 10 in B minor by Pierre Rode
Performer:  Friedemann Eichhorn (Violin)
Conductor:  Nicolás Pasquet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Orchestra Kaiserslautern
Period: Romantic 
Written: c1806 
Concerto for Violin no 13 in F sharp minor/A major by Pierre Rode
Performer:  Friedemann Eichhorn (Violin)
Conductor:  Nicolás Pasquet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Orchestra Kaiserslautern
Period: Romantic 
Written: c1834 

Featured Sound Samples

Violin Concerto no 7: I. Moderato
Violin Concerto no 10: III. Tempo di polacca

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