Beethoven Romance in F for Violin and Orchestra

By vaughan • 29th October 2009 • Posted in: Concerts and recitals

On Sunday the 4th October I played Beethoven’s Romance no. 2 in F major op. 50, writes violinist Vaughan Jones. Traditionally thought of as being written in 1802 or 1803 (when the composer was in his early thirties), there is evidence to suggest that it may have started life in an earlier form as part of Beethoven’s unfinished C major violin concerto (woo5). It is a work bursting with optimism and tenderness, exploring the singing qualities of the violin as well as containing some beautifully flowing passages. It is interesting that Beethoven writes that it should be played ‘Adagio Cantabile’ as this suggests a slower, yet singing pace. It is not at a ‘walking pace’ as many modern recordings and performances suggest, but slower – allowing time for the melody to breath, creating a feeling of stillness and serenity.

To my regret, I am not used to playing pieces from memory, so took this opportunity to fully immerse myself in the piece without the music. Taking the advice of my violin teacher Kato Havas (and her ‘New Approach to Violin Playing’), I tried – as far as possible – to learn it first without taking the violin out of it’s case. This begins with singing a phrase with the note names (rather like singing with sol-fa) and always keeping the rhythmic pulse flowing (either by clapping or pulsing with the knees). Then through accurate miming of the left hand and bowing (still with the singing and pulsing), it was entirely possible to just pick up the violin and play the piece through from memory. By the time the actual violin was involved, the piece was thoroughly learnt without further need for ‘practice’ and it felt unfettered by the technical demands of the instrument.

The orchestra are a terrific bunch of people – like me, all ex pupils of Charterhouse School – who get together once a year to put on an informal concert, simply rehearsed on the day and this year, in aid of a very good cause – the Mark Evison Foundation. Mark also attended Charterhouse and was a very proficient cellist, before being tragically killed serving in Afghanistan.  The orchestra are a mixture of keen amateur musicians, a few professional players and some who have hardly picked up their instruments in years – but nevertheless it is amazing what hard work and a shared sense of purpose can achieve. After spending only 30 minutes of rehearsal on the Beethoven Romance, we also had to prepare the Egmont Overture, Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations (with cellist Gerard le Feuvre) and Dvorak’s New World Symphony – for a performance that evening. We were greatly helped by having John Landor – (a professional conductor) to work with.

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