I am preparing Alexander Glazunov’s Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 82, for a concert with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and music director Dirk Meyer. I first studied this piece when I was quite young, probably around 15 or 16. It was a required piece for a competition at the pre-college program I was enrolled in. Honestly, I remember quickly falling out of love with this piece while learning it because it had become a purely academic and competitive experience—quite a shame since this is such a beautifully structured and luscious work. It took me several years before I could return to it without the association.
Glazunov’s concerto has a unique structure—no pauses between the movements or cadenza. This serves the piece well, as it’s almost stream of consciousness in a way, switching back and forth between traditional melodies and motives with many folk-like Russian elements. In some ways, it’s a “traditional” violin concerto, but very possibly it’s meant as something less serious—more improvisatory and searching within the context of the Russian national idiom, with which Glazunov was very familiar.
“It’s almost stream of consciousness in a way, switching back and forth between traditional melodies and motives with many folk-like Russian.”
I remember first hearing this piece when I must have been around nine. It was so “cool” for me—very different from the German classical composers I was used to at the time. It must have been something to do with the lack of traditional form and improvisatory nature of the musical line.
I’m very passionate about this material. Now that I’ve been able to shed the “clinical” approach with which I first learned this piece, I have gone back to being captivated by the music itself, much like I was when I first heard the piece.
The violin spends a lot of time singing in this work. I think it’s important to clearly define how one structures all this lyricism. Is it dramatic and operatic? Is it intense or cool? Is it clear or throaty? Otherwise, there is the danger of the piece sounding “flat” for 18 minutes, especially because each movement seamlessly connects to the next.
There are some very challenging technical passages, which of course must be properly studied, perfected, and executed. However, I think it is important to examine these elements within the context of the music early on in the process. In my opinion, these passages are often not traditional virtuosity for virtuosity’s sake, but rather an additional palette of colors at your disposal.
I would absolutely recommend this piece to a fellow player! It’s such a fun piece to play. It also contains a unique set of technical challenges and numerous opportunities for the development of interpretation, specifically approach to sound.
I am familiar only with the International Music Edition for this piece. I would advise getting this along with the Eulenberg score. There are a number of small note and slur misprints in the IME violin part and you can catch those with the help of the score. There are also a variety of bowing options by Oistrakh, and the score might provide an alternative idea.