When he was conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Ferdinand David praised Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto as being the “second great big concerto” – the other is Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major. Mendelssohn claims it wasn’t his intent to best Beethoven, but rather to fill a void that existed in the instrumental world. However, today these two masterpieces are considered to be the greatest violin concerti of all time.
A child prodigy, Mendelssohn wrote his most recognized orchestral work, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at the young age of 17. Although no later work is said to equal his first master piece, the Violin Concerto took Mendelssohn five years to write and remains his most significant work.
Traditionally, the soloist for his Violin Concerto was always a budding violin virtuoso. One-hundred and fifty years since its composition, the work still has a strange affinity with very young violinists. In the second performance of the work, 14-year-old Joseph Joachim took the stage and would go on to become Europe’s finest violinist of his time. Today it is still the first choice for budding young violin virtuosi, like Blake Pouliot, who performs this work tomorrow with the HPO at Brilliance: Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.
Aside from creating and performing music, Mendelssohn was also an accomplished water colour painter and referred to paint landscape portraits.
Undoubtedly, what he saw with his eye translated to his music as Mendelssohn’s work literally paints an image in the mind of the listener. In his Violin Concerto, Mendelssohn starts by throwing the listener right in the middle of a storm and proceeds to musically depict potential thoughts, emotions and images one might feel at a turbulent time in life. Considering this was his last major work before his death, this stormscape could be a reflection of how Mendelssohn was feeling as was coming to the end of his life and brilliant career.
In this battle for the greatest violin concerto, we are not sure if there is a winner. Beethoven and Mendelssohn were brilliant artists – each in their own respects.
On November 29, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra presents Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and, in the tradition of the piece, features young violinist Blake Pouliot.
But for now, here’s a taste of what you can expect on Saturday as the HPO and Blake Pouliot perform Mendelssohn’s great Violin Concerto