Sunday, 29 August 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee Extra – More Itzhak Perlman

If you enjoyed my main show on Perlman you may want to listen to the three videos here.

When I feature classical music I select only one movement and the ninth and last video in the main show was the second movement of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1.  This was so magnificent that I have decided to display all three movements in this Extra.  I see this as a one-off simply because Perlman made such an impression on me.

Alongside the videos are comments about the music from two sites.  Bullet points and text.  I hope they enhance the experience.

Bruch                                   Violin Concerto No 1 in G Minor

  • A concerto is usually in 3 movements (fast-slow-fast)
  • Bruch took about 3 years to complete the work taking advice on its final form from other people including Joseph Joachim, a famous Hungarian violinist.
  • The romantic concerto was all about the soloist being a star, much like today’s film stars. The composer would write difficult technical passages to display the soloist’s virtuosic skill.
  • People say this concerto is the peak of romantic music using clear lyrical melodies. Other composers, such as Wagner, had begun to be deeply influenced by politics, philosophy and psychology.
  • Bruch wrote 3 violin concertos but this is the most famous and is one of the most well known concertos for the violin.

Movement 1                               Prelude: Allegro moderato

The first movement is unusual in that it is a Vorspiel, a prelude, to the second movement and is directly linked to it. The impression it gives towards listeners is almost like a smooth army march, yet an anticipatory feeling prevails throughout. The piece starts off slowly, with the melody first taken by the flutes, and then the solo violin becomes audible with a short cadenza. This repeats again, serving as an introduction to the main portion of the movement, which contains a strong first theme and a very melodic, and generally slower, second theme. The movement ends as it began, with the two short cadenzas more virtuosic than before, and the orchestra's final tutti flows into the second movement, connected by a single low note from the first violins.

  • This concerto has 4 short cadenzas written by Bruch (two at the opening and two at the end). This was unusual and broke away from the traditional form of having one cadenza at the end of the movement, which is often improvised.
  • Notice the use of unison string writing to create drama.
  • Bruch is incredibly skilled at balancing the orchestral sound and not drowning out the soloist. One of ways he does this is with pitch – high violin cutting over low orchestra sounds.
  • The end of the movement may seem difficult to spot as it is linked to the second movement by a single note – this was a technique used previously by the German composer Mendelssohn. It may have been to stop the audience clapping and not break the mood.


Movement 2                                                                 Adagio

The slow second movement is often adored for its powerful melody, and is generally considered to be the heart of the concerto. The rich, expansive themes, presented by the violin, are underscored by a constantly moving orchestra part, keeping the movement alive and helping it flow from one part to the next.

  • This movement is the real heart of Bruch’s violin concerto.
  • It is in 3/8 which means you can count 3 beats to each bar of music.
  • Notice how the orchestra give beautiful introductions to the solo violin.
  • See if you can hear segments of the violin melody played by other sections of the orchestra.


Movement 3                            Finale: Allegro energico

The third movement, the finale, opens with an extremely intense, yet quiet, orchestral introduction that yields to the soloist's statement of the exuberant theme in brilliant double stops. It is very much like a dance that moves at a comfortably fast and energetic tempo. The second subject is a fine example of Romantic lyricism, a slower melody which cuts into the movement several times, before the dance theme returns with its fireworks. The piece ends with a huge accelerando, leading to a fiery finish that gets higher as it gets faster and louder and eventually concludes with two short, yet grand chords.

  • The third movement, or Finale as it is often called, is usually exciting and fun in character. There is a calling motif played in the strings that is then heard in the clarinets and oboes. See if you can spot this motif as it gets used throughout the movement.
  • Bruch uses a technique called double stopping – more than one note played on the solo violin at the same time.
  • Some of the melodies are evocative of Hungarian folk melodies; people say this may have been a gesture of warmth to the Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim to whom the concerto is dedicated.
  • Towards the end Bruch uses all the romantic dramatic techniques available: the orchestra gets faster, higher and louder and the soloist leaps from low to high.



Thank you for sharing this music of the Gods.


  1. A surprise bonus, Calum!

    Most are familiar with the finale but IMHO, the powerful adagio reaches an even higher plane.

  2. Merci, merci de tout coeur. Clapping hands with the audience, with tears rolling down.