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<<  -- 4 --  Jennifer Paull    TIMEWARP


Paris, its excitement, its vitality, even under the darkening clouds of the Europe of the day, was sure to provide the stimulus required to bring the work to its completion. No sooner did Barber arrive in Paris than all American nationals were warned to leave at once. He sailed for the United States and even before he reached New York, German troops invaded Poland.

Barber re-entered Curtis, this time, as a professor of composition from 1939-42, until he joined the US Army Air Force and served until 1945.

Fels let Barber know that Briselli considered these first two movements to be too simple and not sufficiently virtuosic for a concerto.

One cannot but be saddened by the driving need of many performers to seek out the firework display and ignore the wonder and mystery of the well-crafted melodic line. Works for violin and orchestra such as Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending, and the wonderful Oboe Concerto in D Minor by Alessandro Marcello (not Benedetto, to whom it was previously, erroneously attributed), fall out of the repertoire and are forgotten. They do not have enough Catherine wheels, Roman candles, and exploding rockets for today's sporting soloist. They are brushed aside as being too 'easy'!

How well I recall Isaac Stern's words on the incredible responsibility one carries in the perfect positioning of a single appogiatura when performing Mozart. Nothing gives more of a sense of being naked, alone on the planet. Yet, how many soloists have adopted Music has an Olympic sport? Roger Banister broke the four-minute mile. Concert performance is undergoing the same 'barrier' breaking, and appears sadly, to have been so doing for many years. I recently attended a performance of Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony, which was too fast for even double-tonguing. Whatever happened to the appreciation of musical architecture as one is zoomed by on Concorde?

The change from the warm lyricism of the Violin Concerto's first two movements to the aggressive rhythms and strong dissonances of the finale is not only a microcosm of the evolution of Barber's style at the outbreak of World War II. I would suggest it was also a reflection of his frame of mind, which was totally understandable. Something modified within him forever. It's as if his music shifted its balance from that moment onwards. The flow of innocence of the first two movements was interrupted before the third could even be conceived.

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Copyright © 26 April 2002 Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland





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