• Richard Rodney Bennett
  • Violin Concerto (1975)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Feeney Trust

  • 2(pic)2(ca)1(bcl)2423(btbn)1timp.3perchp.pf(cel)str
  • violin
  • 22 min

Programme Note

This work was written in England and America between May and September 1975 in response to a commission from the Feeney Trust and West Midland Arts Association, and is dedicated to Ralph Holmes. It is made up of two extended movements, each suggested by lines written by Robert Herrick (1591-1674).

The character of the first movement is summed up by a quotation from The Maidenblush

‘So look the mornings when the Sun Paints them with fresh Vermillion..’

After a brief declamatory introduction (A) the soloist enters quietly and freely and after a brief cadenza transforms the notes of the opening statement into a long lyrical theme (B). The tension increases until the opening material (A) returns in varied form. Then comes the second of four cadenzas, each of which makes an important structural division. This leads to a brilliant scherzo which develops earlier material (A,B) as well as introducing a new ‘martial’ theme (C) played by the soloist largely in double-stops. The central point of the movement is reached in a third cadenza, after which the material recurs in reverse order, creating an arch-like form. Before the varied reprise of the soloist’s lyrical theme (B) comes the last and most important cadenza, which sums up all the thematic material (A,B,C) of the movement. Finally the opening statement (A) returns, creating a brilliant coda.

The second movement was suggested by lines taken from an early version of Herricks ‘Epithalamion’:
Throned in a saffron evening
Seems to chime
All in.’

The form of this movement is basically very simple - AFA, cadenza, coda. Over a gently rocking accompaniment the soloist builds a long melodic line. This line is taken up in turn by cor anglais and violins, while the soloist ‘improvises’ around it. After an impassioned climax the second main section begins. This is built from two elements: a filigree pattern for woodwind and celesta and an increasingly agitated recitative stated by the soloist. At the climax of the second section the first material returns, leading to a cadenza. The coda is cloudy and nocturnal; at the very end of the concerto the soloist quietly states his opening theme from the first movement and the music slowly fades.