I recently had a road accident. Out of negligence. Nobody was harmed. The material damage was substantial. But what truly hurt me, was the fact that this accident was entirely avoidable. An error of judgment on my side made me loose time and money. I caused damage to a third party. The awareness of my total responsibility made me feel extremely bad. I felt ashamed. And I could not listen to music with pleasure. It felt wrong. I felt not entitled to such an indulgence. It took a while until I truly accepted the consequences of my error. I felt better then. Eventually I was able to listen to music again. Music like Jenö Hubay’s Romantic third violin concerto.
Hubay published his Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Minor (op. 99) in 1907; he dedicated it to his 14-year-old student Franz von Vecsey, who performed the premiere. The first movement starts forcefully, with all the wisdom and energy of Ludwig van Beethoven. It quickly changes into a gentle, conciliating mood. The second movement exudes joy, playfulness, irony even, akin to the irony in Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf”. I particularly like the third movement; it’s very lyric and it reminds me of Bedrich Smetana’s cycle of symphonic poems “My Fatherland”, one of my favourite pieces of music. Perhaps that’s why I like it so much!
The last movement starts with drumrolls and rapid figures for the strings, tension, allegro con fuoco, yes, and then the soloist has his great moment. And again I am reminded of Beethoven, his violin concerto, where the soloist starts to rises like a firecracker, higher and higher, and explodes at its apogee in a gracious spectacle. The construction leaves no doubt about Hubay’s talent as a composer, about his sensitivity as a musical poet. The concerto is one of his most popular works. Hardly a surprise!
You can listen to parts of the concerto at the Digital Concert Hall of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Or you can buy the recording I cherish by Ragin Wenk-Wolff and the Dvorak Symphonic Orchestra. Wenk-Wolff had always wanted to record Hubay after meeting Edle Hubay, Jenö’s daughter-in-law, and being told that she and Hubay would have “hit it off” had they been contemporaries and actually met.
© Charles Thibo