Guts and Determination - Mendlessohn Violin Concerto

Vanessa - Mae

Vanessa - Mae

You have to give it to the violinist Vanessa-Mae.  To go from being a concert violinist to skiing for Thailand in the giant slalom at the Sochi Winter Olympics takes either guts and determination or she is plain bonkers!   She came last of the 67 who finished and 50 seconds behind the winner.  Whatever - in my book it is an impressive change of career!

 

During my time at EMI Classics when I worked with Vanessa, then aged about 17, she had just released her first album The Violin Player and was selling millions of albums.  I travelled with her on various occasions and she was always friendly and pleasant to be with.  Not so her mother, Pamela, the original Tiger Mother who pushed Vanessa and all those involved to the limits.  Her promotional schedule was like no other artists', barely leaving time to eat and sleep.  Vanessa later revealed that her mother used to say "I love you because you are my daughter, but you'll never be special to me unless you play the violin".  She was allegedly forced to drop every one of her school friends because they were considered a distraction.  Not surprisingly Vanessa and her mother severed all contact when she was fired as her manager.  So a sad ending, although I am quite sure that Vanessa would never have sold the 10 million albums and amassed a fortune of £32 million had it not been for her mother.

150 years after it's composition, the Mendlessohn Violin concerto in E minor, is still regularly performed and is one of the most loved of all instrumental concertos.  The work took Mendlessohn five years to compose from start to finish and he began it as a teenager.  He wrote it for a violinist friend called Ferdinand David (one of the most accomplished violinists of the day), who also played it at the premiere.

Felix Mendlessohn (1809-1847) was from a wealthy Hamburg family who mixed with many of Germany's leading artists and musicians.  A child prodigy who at a young age excelled as a painter, poet, athlete, linguist and musician.  He travelled widely and made ten visits to England and two to Scotland which sparked two of his best loved works:  The Scottish Symphony and The Hebrides Overture.

On the recording I am going to recommend, the Mendlessohn is coupled with the Bruch Violin Concerto in G minor. Also one of the most beautiful and popular of all violin concertos.  Bruch was a master of writing for string instruments and one of this concerto's redeeming qualities is the degree to which is acts as a profound showcase for the instrument particularly the last movement.

This is a must-have recording.

Maxim Vengerov

Maxim Vengerov

My recommendation is played by the Russian violinist Maxim Vengerov whose passion and virtuosity have made him one of the most esteemed violinists of his generation.  He has performed sold-out concerts with the world's most eminent orchestras and conductors as well as giving solo concerts in every major city.

"The Russian-born violinist's entire programme breathed distinction, from the rich main course to the delightful sweetmeats."     The Guardian

Listen to Maxim Vengerov playing the Mendlessohn Violin Concerto on youtube
or the glorious slow movement of the Bruch -  youtube  

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Posted on March 12, 2014 .