Violin Concerto No. 3
In this masterclass, Professor Barnabás Kelemen works with his son, Gaspar Kelemen, on character and control in the first movement of Saint-Saëns’ third violin concerto. Firstly, they work on Gaspar’s physical posture; the professor helps him adjust the violin so that he can produce the best possible quality of sound. Next, they discuss several aspects of the sound, including maintaining the intensity in piano dynamics and at the ends of notes and phrases, as well as playing with a consistent vibrato. Professor Kelemen encourages his student to highlight rather than mask the dissonances in the music, and to make a bigger occasion out of unusual harmonies.
Additionally, he helps Gaspar find the right character and emotion in the piece, so that it remains true to the composer’s intention. He cautions him against being too free, while he should find places to take time, he must do so within the rhythmic confines. Finally, they work on making smooth shifts and controlling the left-hand technique so that there is clarity in all passages.
Playing with the correct position for best sound production.
Maintaining the intensity of sound even in piano dynamics.
Bringing out the dissonances and surprising harmonies.
Capturing the right characters.
Controlling shifts and left-hand technique.
Camille Saint-Saëns wrote his third and most popular violin concerto in 1880, the decade during which he composed the majority of his most enduring works, for renowned violinist Pablo Sarasate. In tandem with his Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso and Havanaise, the concerto serves as an important and frequently programmed part of the violin repertory.
The first movement, Allegro non troppo, opens atypically with a cadenza-like section in the violin rather than an orchestral introduction. The movement is full of complex technical passages, including leaps, runs, and double stops, but the contrasting second theme allows the performer to exult in a rich, lyrical melody. The second movement, Andantino quasi allegretto, is graceful and elegant, in a lilting dance rhythm. The violin is supported melodically by the woodwinds throughout, and the movement ends with a unique texture of violin harmonics in octaves with the clarinet. The final movement, Molto moderato e maestoso – Allegro non troppo, again opens with a statement in the violin rather than the full orchestra, and showcases the performer’s virtuosity. An unexpected chorale section occurs in the middle of the movement before the soloist drives to a brilliant conclusion.
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.
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) was a French composer, organist, pianist, and educator. He was born in Paris, where he lived with his mother and aunt. A child prodigy, he displayed remarkable talent on the piano as well as a perfect pitch from a young age. He performed for small audiences as a child before making his official debut at ten years old. At thirteen, he entered the Paris Conservatory, where he studied organ with François Benoist and composition with Fromental Halévy. Though he never won the coveted Prix de Rome, he did win top prizes in organ performance and was successful in other composition competitions, drawing attention to himself as a young composer to watch. Upon graduating, he began work as an organist. He initially took a job at the Church of Saint-Merri before landing a more prestigious position at the famous Church of Madeleine in 1858, where he worked for twenty years.
Saint-Saëns became friends with several prominent composers of the time, most notably Franz Liszt, who encouraged his career. He returned the favor by promoting Liszt’s works, along with those of Schumann and Wagner. From 1861-65, he taught piano at the Niedermeyer School, where he exposed his students to these contemporary works, straying from the traditional curriculum. After he left the school, he turned his attention more prominently to performance and composition. In 1867, he won the composition prize at the Grande Fête Internationale competition in Paris, and in 1868, he premiered his second piano concerto, which gained him widespread recognition as the first French composer to write a significant piece in this genre.
In the 1870s, Saint-Saëns briefly fled to London during the Franco-Prussian War. He also married Marie-Laure Truffot, though they soon became estranged after tragically losing their two young sons. Despite these personal tragedies, he began to find even more success in his career. He took an interest in composing symphonic poems in the style of Liszt, the most famous of which was his 1874 Danse Macabre. In 1877, his popular opera Samson and Dalila premiered, which is still frequently performed today. He also toured extensively across the world, performing on piano and conducting his orchestral works.
In 1886, he premiered his beloved third symphony, commonly known as the Organ Symphony, and completed perhaps his most well-known work, Carnival of the Animals. Ironically, Saint-Saëns refused to allow this work to be premiered during his life for fear that it would ruin his reputation as a serious composer. Today, it is treasured by audiences and often used to introduce children to the instruments of the orchestra.
Moving into the twentieth century, Saint-Saëns never adapted to the modern French style adopted by composers such as Debussy. He became known as a conservative composer, despite his support of contemporary and experimental music earlier in his career. Perhaps it is for this reason that only a few works from his massive output remain popular today. Nonetheless, he is remembered as a musical genius, a piano and organ prodigy, and an esteemed professor. He died in 1921 of a heart attack. He was given a state funeral at the Church of Madeleine, and later buried in the Montparnasse cemetery.