Sunday, September 16, 2007

When Beethoven premiered his new violin concerto, some critics were quite bothered by the work's introductory notes on the timpani, and its subsequent cameos throughout the first movement. One called it a concerto for the kettledrum. Beethoven liked the idea and when he re-envisioned the work for piano and orchestra, he took it a step further by creating cadenzas that made the drum even more prominent.

My first encounter with this important work was through a Point Classics disc (on the left up there) with Christian Tetzlaff as soloist with Michael Gielen and the Symphony Orchestra of the Sudwestfunk. For that performance, my first, Tetzlaff fashioned his own cadenzas based on Beethoven's piano transcription cadenzas. Having heard no other alternatives, I took this performance and its cadenzas to heart and considered them the standard.

When I reached the point when I wanted alternative renditions, you cannot imagine my surprise when almost every new performance I acquired had a completely different cadenza - Fritz Kreisler. I know that many, if not most, consider his cadenzas the standard, and I would have too were it not for Mr. Tetzlaff. Hearing the violin concerto with the Kreisler cadenzas leaves me cold now. I miss the playful banter between the violin and timpani.

If you have heard one too many Beethoven violin concerto performances with the Kreisler cadenzas, I recommend this interesting and in Christian Tetzlaff's view, more faithful, cadenza. Getting the Point Classics disc is virtually impossible, but the good violinist had enough sense to record it anew, this time on the Arte Nova label with David Zinman and the Tonhalle Orchestra. You will not be disappointed, and after a while, you may come to truly enjoy this alternative vision of a mighty standard.

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