When I read about Beethoven and his life, I can't help wondering why there haven't been any block buster award winning films made along the lines of Amadeus and The Kings Speech. There have been films but they are not up there with the greats and are rather unmemorable. I would have thought that his life had everything to make a good film: parents had an unhappy marriage, father was a bully and an alcoholic, an assortment of failed love affairs, started to go deaf aged 26, a tempestuous character who spent the last years of his life in a world of deafness and isolation. These along with a glorious soundtrack would surely make the film a winner…..Maybe we will have to settle for a new book out about the composer which is said to reveal the true person and dwells mainly on his early life as opposed to going into academic detail about the music. Beethoven by Jan Swafford.
This weeks work is arguably the most famous violin concerto of all time - Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major. The piano was Beethoven's instrument for which he wrote the bulk of his sonatas, concertos and variations but he studied the violin enough to produce one of the greatest of all concertos. He couldn't play the work himself so he entrusted it to Franz Clement who was the leader of the orchestra at the Theater-an-der Wien and a friend of the composer. For some reason and most unlike Beethoven, he completed the work in a rush either close to or on the day of the first performance. So much so, it is said that Clement had to sight read parts of the concerto. The critical response to the work was lukewarm and it wasn't until 20 years after the death of the composer that the work gained popularity. It took a young 13 year old virtuoso violinist called Joseph Joachim who took the piece on a European tour with his friend Felix Mendlessohn conducting to bring it to the fore.
As you can imagine there are many excellent recordings of this concerto. But the one I am going to choose is played by the American Itzhak Perlman and is considered to be one of the all time greats. I once heard him play it at a music festival in Aspen, Colorado, the memory of which has always stayed with me. This is an older recording conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini, Perlman gives a very distinguished performance playing with all the majesty and grandeur that this great work deserves.
Itzhak Perlman was born in Israel and became interested in the violin when he heard a concert on the radio. Aged three he was denied admission to the Shulamit Conservatory for being too small to hold a violin, so he taught himself to play a toy fiddle. He gave his first performance aged ten before moving to the States to study at the Juilliard School of Music. Perlman contracted Polio aged four, but make a good recovery learning to walk on crutches, although he plays the violin seated.