BERIOT: Violin Concertos Nos. 1, 8 and 9
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Charles-Auguste de Bériot (1802-1870)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 16
Violin Concerto No. 8 in D major, Op. 99
Violin Concerto No. 9 in A minor, Op. 104
Charles-Auguste de Bériot was born in Louvain on 20th February 1802. He was to become one of the most distinguished violinists of the Belgian school, to be followed by players such as Vieuxtemps, Ysaÿe, Hubert Léonard, Massart, Marsick, Prume and César Thomson. Bériot played a Viotti concerto in public at the age of nine and after the death of his parents in 1812 became the ward of his teacher Jean-François Tiby. He took some lessons from André Robberechts, a pupil of Viotti, and in 1821 played for Viotti in Paris. On that occasion he was advised by the master to try to perfect his style, to listen to all talented players but to imitate none, counsel that he seems largely to have accepted. In 1819 Viotti had taken up the position of director of the Paris Opera, after the failure of his wine business in London. He was to resign in November 1821, but at the time of Bériots appearance in Paris was busily involved with his official duties. The boy was able, however, to take some lessons from Baillot, who had for some years been teaching at the Conservatoire.
By 1824 Bériot had embarked on a career as a virtuoso that brought him, in 1826, the title of chamber-violinist to King Charles X and thereafter the position of violinist to King William I of the Netherlands. His meeting with the distinguished soprano Maria Malibran, daughter of the tenor Manuel Garcia and sister of Pauline Viardot, was to lead to a partnership from 1829 and finally to marriage, after the annulment of her first marriage to Eugène Malibran, initially contracted in the hope of escaping paternal exploitation. From 1832 they spent their time chiefly in England and Italy, eventually marrying in March 1836, three years after the birth in Paris of their son Charles-Wilfrid, who was to make a name for himself as a pianist. Maria Malibran died in Manchester during the Festival there in September 1836, six months after her marriage, as the result of a fall from a horse while she was pregnant. A few years later Heine was to observe that the soul of Malibran continued to sing through the melting and sweet tones of her husbands violin.
In 1838 Bériot undertook concert tours in Austria and Italy with his wifes sister, and appeared in the major cities of Germany with the pianist Thalberg. Two years later he married Marie Huber, the daughter of an Austrian magistrate and in 1843 accepted the position of principal professor of the violin at the Conservatory in Brussels, preferring this position to comparable employment in Paris, where he was offered the succession to Baillot. He now reduced his concert engagements and was able to enjoy the performance of chamber music with members of his Cercle des arts at his house at Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, in Brussels. Failing eye-sight was to lead to Bériots resignation from the Conservatoire in 1852. He continued to give concerts until paralysis of the left arm in 1866 put an end to his career. He died in Brussels in 1870.
Bériots compositions include fifteen sets of variations for violin and piano, the first dating from about 1820 and the last appearing in 1866, ten violin concertos, the last of which was published posthumously in 1871, some fifty duets and studies which continue to serve their original pedagogical purpose. As a teacher and player he brought to its height the Franco-Belgian school of violin-playing that was to prove of such importance. His pupils included Vieuxtemps and the Milanollo sisters.
Bériots Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, The Military, Op. 26, was given its first performance by the composer on Christmas Day, 1829. The work was dedicated to Leopold I, the first King of the Belgians. In one movement, it provides an example of de Bériots early debt to Paganini in matters demanding technical virtuosity, particularly, perhaps, in the use of left-hand pizzicato. The work, which starts with the expected orchestral introduction, is seductively operatic in melodic invention, reminding us of the contemporary comparison of Bériot to Bellini, and was originally designed for a violin tuned a semitone higher, enabling the soloist to finger in the key of D while the orchestra played in the key of E flat. It makes considerable technical demands on a performer, with an effective use of double stopping, its energetic progress finding room for more lyrical moments.
The Concerto No. 8 in D major, Op. 99, was written in 1855 and published the following year, with a dedication to Prince Nikolay Yusupov, amateur violinist and composer, whom Bériot had met in Paris. The Prince had taken lessons from Vieuxtemps, had his own private orchestra in St Petersburg and in 1856 published in Frankfurt a history of the violin and of violin-makers, a work of some inaccuracy. The concerto exemplifies yet again Bériots command of technical idiom and his absorption of contemporary styles of display and taste in melody and melodic decoration. The opening orchestral exposition of the Allegro maestoso duly leads to the entry of the soloist with an appropriately ornamented version of the first theme, followed by a virtuoso transition and more lyrical material. The development makes further technical demands on the soloist, before a short cadenza and the conclusion section of the movement. The Andantino slow movement, gently lyrical in mood, leads without a break to a final Rondo of spirited energy.
Bériots Violin Concerto No. 9 in A minor, Op. 104, was written in 1858 and dedicated to the Princess Tatyana Yusupov. The dedication of Concerto No. 9 was not only a mark of friendship but a token of gratitude for an invitation to spend seven months in St Petersburg from September 1859. Like the sixth and seventh concertos, the ninth is in three movements played in succession without a pause. It demonstrates the facility of Bériots writing for the violin, and the operatic elegance and fluency of style that also marked his playing.
based on material by Marc Tollet