Work: Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 77
About This Work
Brahms composed this music during the summer of 1878, and led the first performance, with its dedicatee Joseph Joachim as soloist, in Leipzig on January 1, 1879.
In the 1860s, Brahms toured as Joachim's pianist. Despite the kilometers
separating them otherwise -- the violinist lived in Berlin, while Brahms settled permanently in Vienna after 1867 -- their mutual regard as well as affection flourished. Until 1881, that is, when "Jussuf," a pathologically jealous husband, accused his wife of adultery, naming his and Brahms' publisher, Fritz Simrock, as correspondent. Knowing Joachim's mania, Brahms consoled the lady privately in a letter that she made public during divorce proceedings -- one that the judge agreed with publicly, adding injury to insult in the fiddler's mind. For the next six years there was silence between them. Brahms, atypically, broke the ice by writing his "Double" Concerto in 1887 for Joachim and a cellist of choice -- the composer's last work for orchestra, although he lived a decade longer. Even so, Joachim was never as close as in 1878, when Brahms put aside sketches for a new piano concerto (the B flat, Op. 83, finished later) to make one for him instead.
A summer composer, he wrote the music in Pörtschach, a small resort community on the Wörther-see in south-central Austria that he found both charming and congenial (until "lady admirers" annoyed him beyond tolerance in 1879). Brahms created a large work, in the Beethoven tradition, though he gave up the idea of two movements in the middle; in their place he put an F major Adagio, with a seraphic oboe solo but a stormier central section in F sharp minor before calm returns.
The opening movement, marked not too fast, has a sonorous orchestral introduction in 3/4 time amounting to a first exposition of the main theme. When the violin enters, it is with an extended display over horns in octaves and a timpani roll before playing the main theme and a "secondary" group, from which one melody is outright gorgeous. Brahms begins his development section in A minor; a cadenza that Joachim contributed comes after the recapitulation.
Next comes the filigreed Adagio already discussed, then a rondo-finale with a "Hungarian" main theme (marked joyous but not too lively). Most agree that Brahms was saluting Joachim's origin; he was born near Pressburg, later called Poszony -- today Bratislava in the Czech Republic. The music teems with challenges yet never becomes the circus-piece that so many nineteenth century fiddle concertos were.
-- Roger Dettmer, All Music Guide
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