New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacherby Julie Amacher, Minnesota Public Radio
Rachel Barton Pine loves to make musical discoveries. Like the fact that the former lead guitarist of The Scorpions, Uli Roth, got the idea for his now-famous heavy metal guitar lick from the solo part of the Brahms violin concerto. After playing that concerto for years, Pine knows that same little violin riff well.
St. Paul, Minn. — Pine knows the Beethoven violin concerto just as well. She was aware that Beethoven wrote that concerto for violin virtuoso Franz Clement. What she didn't realize until recently, is that Beethoven probably borrowed ideas from a violin concerto written by Clement one year earlier.
Rachel Barton Pine demonstrates the close connection between these two concertos by pairing them together on her new release.
Franz Clement premiered Beethoven's glorious Violin Concerto in 1806, except that night it wasn't so glorious.
"Beethoven just hadn't gotten around to finishing it in time for the soloist to practice it before the show," Barton Pine explained. "Clement didn't cancel the concert, he had to play the gig because it was the annual benefit concert for the orchestra of which he was concert master, and the guy needed the money, so he went on stage and hacked his way through the Beethoven, essentially sight-reading."
Needless to say, the performance was a flop. To help compensate for the Beethoven fiasco, Franz Clement also featured one of his own compositions during that concert. He was an amazing virtuoso who charmed the audience with various antics, including playing his instrument upside down.
It was this piece of history that prevented Rachel Barton Pine from exploring Clement's violin concerto.
"I knew that Clement had written a concerto but it never occurred to me to check into it, because I had heard this story about him being silly when he played Beethoven's concerto, which isn't entirely true," said Barton Pine. "But because of this rumor, this reputation, I just thought, oh, he's not a serious violinist, and his concerto is probably a piece of junk. Little did I know."
Two years ago, Barton Pine received a call from the owner of her favorite sheet music store. The owner, knowing she was fascinated with rare historic repertoire, asked if she'd like to see the newly published first modern edition of Clement's Violin Concerto in D major. She ordered a copy right away.
After glancing at the score, she knew she had found something special. Not only is it an excellent composition, but its aesthetic similarities to Beethoven's violin masterpiece were stunning.
"What's interesting is that Clement's concerto is in the same key, the same length, the same unusual instrumentation using one flute and pairs of the other winds -- the exact same configurations as Beethoven's violin concerto," Barton Pine said.
There are numerous examples where you think you're hearing Beethoven's concerto, when it's really Clement's.
When she was first learning the concerto, Barton Pine used to fool her friends by telling them it was the first original version of the Beethoven Concerto. Even the orchestra was fooled during the recording sessions.
"When I was recording it with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, my colleagues in the orchestra would say, 'It keeps sounding like Clement is ripping off Beethoven, and we have to keep reminding ourselves that it's the opposite,'" Barton Pine said.
It's no surprise to learn that Clement composed his concerto one year prior to Beethoven's. Musicologist Clive Brown thinks it's possible that Beethoven was paying homage to Clement. Or, maybe Beethoven was trying to show Clement how to do it better.
Whether you know the history behind the piece or not, Barton Pine believes the Clement Concerto is still an outstanding piece its own right.
It is exciting to rediscover this lost musical treasure. Barton Pine's interpretation of the Beethoven Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Jose Serebrier is equally exciting.
Be sure to check out Rachel's original cadenza in the first movement of the Beethoven Concerto. Beethoven wrote a cadenza for the piano transcription of his Violin Concerto.
At the start of her cadenza, Barton Pine uses that lick, which she says "really rocks." As far as I'm concerned, this entire recording rocks.