Beethoven’s violin concerto in D Major (1806) is among the very finest examples in the genre in terms of European classical music. It is remarkable for the depth of its content together with the majestic simplicity of its themes, its poignant and sincere lyricism, its noble restraint of emotions and true aristocratism. The latter emerges in a reluctance to indulge the tastes of the public, which according to the established tradition was expecting a demonstration of virtuoso standards with the concerto, both from the soloist and from his instrument. Apropos, again, as in his piano concerti, the composer here strives towards the symphonic form. With Beethoven, “virtuosity always remains the servant to inspiration” (Edouard Herriot).
At the premiere, performed by renowned virtuoso Franz Clement in Vienna on 23 December 1806, the Concerto proved a failure with the public. One year later, Clement resolved on a repeat performance of just the first movement of the Concerto, and once again failed to find a common language with the Viennese. Surprisingly, Beethoven’s masterpiece was never again performed during his lifetime. Before us we have one of the most striking examples of collective deafness and unforgivable short-sightedness on behalf of music critics.
At the advice of Muzio Clementi (a composer and brilliant pianist), a disappointed Beethoven … rearranged the violin part for piano in 1807 and even wrote piano cadenzas for the first movement and for the finale. Sadly, this version, too, Beethoven was not destined to hear; it has been performed on very rare occasions in the course of the subsequent two centuries. On the other hand, Beethoven’s original score, published only in 1861 (during the composer’s lifetime only the solo and the orchestral parts were printed), has since won acclaim throughout the world.
The plot of Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet Cinderella, taken from the fairytale by Charles Perrault, was interpreted in a very unusually fashion. In 1941 the composer said in an interview that “The plot is based on the fairytale of Cinderella – a story that exists in all nations and all peoples but which I wanted to take as a truly Russian story.” It is not easy to find traces of Russian fairytales, though it is easy to think of the numerous Hollywood “Cinderellas” who went on to find their princes. Only Prokofiev’s music colours this optimistic Hollywood tale in somewhat sad tones: because in real life a beautiful dream very rarely becomes a reality.
The Kirov Theatre commissioned Prokofiev to write Cinderella, and the premiere was due to take place in the 1942–43 season, but the War intervened. As a result the ballet was only completed in 1944 and on 21 November 1945 it was performed at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. On 8 April the next year Cinderella was shown to residents of Leningrad – with choreography by Konstantin Sergeyev and with the composer’s original score (in Moscow it had been considered too clear and it was “sanitised”).
The ballet is composed in traditional forms with an abundance of old ballroom dances, and so it was rather easy to create suites from the music. In this sense Cinderella is a record holder: in 1943 and 1944 the composer released two piano suites followed by three symphonic suites in 1946 which included almost half of the ballet’s music – twenty-two of the total fifty numbers.