Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
In this masterclass for violin, Professor Barnabás Kelemen and his student Elizaveta Leonova work on Johannes Brahms’ Concerto in D Major. Kelemen mentions how the piece has an incredible unique structure and idea, while it still reflects on the works of Bach and Mozart. Additionally, he talks about the freedom a cadenza offers a soloist, and the importance for a soloist to ask what should be done with this freedom.
The pair also work on tempo, dynamics, and bowing techniques so that Leonova ensures playing with all the hairs on her bow. Other important elements such as rhythm and syncopation are also discussed.
Using all the hairs in one’s bow.
Properly following the dynamics.
Avoid rushing in the recapitulation.
Keeping up the intensity of the piece even during diminuendo.
How to approach a cadenza.
This violin concerto was composed by Johannes Brahms in 1878 and is the composer’s only violin concerto. According to critics, the Germans have four great violin concertos. Beethoven’s is the greatest and most famous, but Brahms’ is not far behind.
It is scored for a small orchestra and follows a traditional concerto structure of three movements and a quick-slow-quick pattern. The tempo is quick and can be challenging to keep up with. It is essential for the violinist to get acquainted with the orchestra score in order to succeed. Moreover, what makes for a great interpretation is the ability to read between what is written and respect the emotional variations of the piece.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this violin masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Barnabás Kelemen’s feedback and comments.
He won first prize at the Salzburg International Mozart Violin Competition in 1999 and at the Indianapolis International Violin Competition in 2002.
Barnabás Kelemen has performed at some of the most famous concert halls in the world with his virtuoso technique and dynamic, passionate playing style. Versatile and open-minded, he is an outstanding soloist and chamber musician, as well as an Artistic Director of various festivals, and a teacher at renowned institutions. In recent years, he has also worked professionally as a conductor.
His repertoire is very diverse, including works from early Baroque, Classical, Romantic works, as well as pieces from the twentieth century. Additionally, he is a devoted advocate of contemporary music.
He regularly performs at the world’s most prominent concert venues, including Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw, the Royal Festival Hall, the Palais de Beaux Arts, Suntory Hall, and the Berliner Philharmonie. He is a frequent guest of such eminent ensembles as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Estonian National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and Hannover’s NDR Radiophilharmonie, to name but a few.
Barnabás Kelemen has worked with conductors such as Lorin Maazel, Sir Neville Marriner, Vladimir Jurowski, Marek Janowski, Michael Stern, Krzysztof Urbanski, Zoltán Kocsis, Péter Eötvös, and Iván Fischer. He is also an avid conductor himself – in recent seasons he has directed the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Israeli Chamber Ensemble, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra, and the symphonic orchestras of the Hungarian cities of Szombathely, Győr, and Pécs. On top of all this, he is a sensitive and experienced chamber musician who has played with artists of the calibre of Dezső Ránki, Steven Isserlis, Miklós Perényi, Alina Ibragimova, Vilde Frang, José Gallardo, and Andreas Ottensamer.
Together with Katalin Kokas, he is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Festival Academy Budapest Chamber Music Festival, which regularly features artists such as Vilde Frang, Maxim Rysanov, Shlomo Mintz, and Joshua Bell.
Born in Hamburg, Germany on May 7, 1833, Johannes Brahms was the son of musician Johann Jakob Brahms. Johannes Brahms began his musical education learning the piano, cello, and horn. From the age of 7-years-old, he studied the piano under Otto Friedrich Willibald Cossel.
Composer, pianist, and conductor, Brahms began his career at the end of the classical tradition (approx. 1730-1820) and established himself as a central figure in classical music’s Romantic era. His first concert tour took place in 1853 where he built a deep camaraderie with fellow musician, Robert Schumann.
His first major work presented to the public was Concerto No. 1 for piano and orchestra in D minor, which was performed by himself in Leipzig in 1859. In 1863, he moved to Vienna, where he was appointed conductor of Singakademie (Singing academy), which he would leave only a year later.
By 1868, Brahms achieved fame throughout Europe for the premiere of his renowned work German Requiem. Other notable works by Brahms include but are not limited to: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, op. 15, Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, op. 24, Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, op. 25, Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor, op. 38 Symphony No. 1 in C minor, op. 68, Violin Concerto in D major, op. 77 Symphony No. 3 in F major, op. 78 Symphony No. 4 in E minor, op. 98, and Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, op. 99 Quintet with Clarinet in B minor, Op. 115. Brahms has been lauded for his deep understanding of formal construction and his rendering of melodic richness, harmonic complexity, and his mastery to achieve a myriad of moods and atmosphere.
Johannes Brahms passed away on April 3,1897, in Vienna.
Photo credit: Fritz Luckhardt