Sibelius Violin Concerto
There’s a joke among classical musicians that the only parts of a piece that matter are the beginning, the end, and one place in the middle. I don’t think its something that anyone really believes in, but the value of the beginning of a piece in setting the scene cannot be ignored, and the absolutely stunning opening of the Sibelius violin concerto is no exception. A soft carpet of violins slowly oscillating between two notes sets up the entrance of the violinist, who over the course of the concerto will do just about everything a violin is capable of doing, all in a concerto of both eye-popping difficulty, but also heartwarming AND heartbreaking warmth, passion and character. There is often what is described as the “Big 5” of violin concerti, which includes the concerti of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn. The Sibelius violin concerto is the only 20th century violin concerto that has found its way into the Big 5 and there’s a reason for it. All of those concerti synthesized the need for virtuosity with the imperative of writing truly great music. But to me, and this might be a controversial opinion, no one did it quite like Sibelius. We’ll hear all about the concerto, the circumstances that created its disastrous opening, and ask the question of what makes Sibelius such a distinctive composer, someone who sounds like no one else on earth.