Vaughan Jones Plays Beethoven Violin Concerto In Oxford – On Saturday the 25th June, violinist Vaughan Jones gave a performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the St Giles Orchestra from Oxford. The concert was conducted by Geoffrey Bushell and the orchestra led by Emily Ormerond.
It was the second time I’d played the piece with an orchestra (the first being 18 months ago) and it was an altogether different experience. The first orchestra in 2009 had a minimum entry of Grade 4 so many of the players struggled with the piece: as a result there was no real cohesion in the performance. There were no such concerns with the St. Giles Orchestra though, who played with a warmth of sound and a sensitivity which made the performance really flow and were supported admirably by their conductor Geoffrey Bushell.
This time around my preparation was done over a period of five weeks. It made me aware of how difficult it is to fit in such a big undertaking around an already busy working life (I remember spending a couple of terms learning a concerto when I was at college and having my whole life to devote to it!).
As I wasn’t free to rehearse on the day of the performance, we agreed that I’d attend three rehearsals prior to it. This was great in that it allowed us to really understand the work together and to sort out the sections where anticipation of the music was needed. The orchestra were incredibly approachable and the atmosphere we rehearsed in was very friendly.
It was interesting that in these rehearsals, any tiny doubts in my memorising of the work were exposed and one note taking me off¬†in the wrong direction would lead to a whole passage going awry! It resulted in much introspection and returning to the ‘drawing board’ after mistakenly thinking I knew it. In the end, playing whole movements through up to speed was the real key to memorising it.
The cadenzas I played¬†were written by Ferdinand David and have fallen into neglect. There is a danger of violinists reaching for the Fritz Kreisler cadenzas before searching out alternatives. This results in the misunderstanding that they are simply the best and using any other cadenzas is rather like settling for ‘second best’. The Kreisler cadenzas are marvellous but like many cadenzas reveal as much about the violinist who wrote them as the piece they are meant to complement. If violinists only play the Kreisler and Joachim cadenzas then we are all missing out on cadenzas written by some of the great composers and players of the past, such as Saint-Saens, Vieuxtemps, Wilhelmj and Busoni.
The performance was a great experience for me and I’m keen to play the Beethoven again in the near future.