Friday, December 23, 2011

December 23

On December 23, 1966, I turned 13 years old. My mother bought for me as a gift the Beethoven violin concerto in D major, Op. 61, in a recording conducted by Erich Leinsdorf, with Nathan Milstein as soloist.

I have a personal identification with the Beethoven violin concerto. The work was premiered on 23 December 1806 in the Theater an der Wien in Vienna. Beethoven wrote the concerto for his colleague Franz Clement, a leading violinist of the day. The occasion was a benefit concert for Clement. However, the first printed edition (1808) was dedicated to Beethoven’s friend Stephan von Breuning.

The premiere was not a success, and the concerto was little performed in the following decades.

The work was revived in 1844, well after Beethoven's death, with performances by the then 12-year-old violinist Joseph Joachim -- one of Brahms' Jewish friends -- with the orchestra conducted by Felix Mendelssohn. Ever since, it has been one of the most important works of the violin concerto repertoire, and it is frequently performed and recorded today.

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