Viola Concerto in D Major, Op. 1
Professor Nathan Braude discusses style and phrasing in Stamitz’s Viola Concerto in D Major. One major theme of the class is the hierarchy of notes within the Classical style. Braude demonstrates which notes should be the most important, as they clarify the harmony and structure of the music, and which are less important. He cautions the student against inadvertently accenting unimportant notes. He also helps her build chords that effectively show the harmony as well as plan her phrasing more clearly, particularly when the same material is repeated three times. At all times, however, he encourages her to make intentional decisions about her musical ideas rather than being passive. Braude also points out the operatic qualities of the concerto. He works with the student to differentiate between the material that should be lyrical and sung and the material that is more technical or articulated, like speaking.
The hierarchy of notes.
Planning out phrases, especially in repeated groups of three.
Building chords that are resonant and in tune.
Matching the style and elegance of the work.
Alternating between the operatic, singing music and more articulated passages.
Though Stamitz was one of the most prolific composers of his time, the Viola Concerto in D Major is one of his only works that remains frequently performed in modern times. Nevertheless, it has become an extremely important part of the viola repertory. It was composed in 1774 while Stamitz was living in Paris, working as a freelance composer and musician. He likely intended to perform it himself, showcasing his virtuosity as a performer. The orchestration consists of a solo viola accompanied by a string orchestra with horns and clarinets.
The first movement, Allegro, is in sonata form with a double exposition; the orchestra first presents both of the movement’s themes before the viola joins in. The movement explores the entire range of the viola as well as its technical capabilities, making use of a wide array of arpeggios, scales, and octaves. The second movement, Andante moderato, contrasts the cheerful opening through lyricism and expressivity in a minor mode. The final movement, Rondo, is simple and joyous, characterized by long passage work and trading lines between the orchestra and the soloist. It even involves left-hand pizzicato, which is possibly the first written appearance of this technique for viola.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this alto masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Nathan Braude's feedback and comments.
Professor at the Royal College of Music of London
Belgian-Israeli violist Nathan Braude has performed in many of the world's most prestigious concert venues including the Wigmore Hall in London, Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.
Nathan Braude has also appeared as a soloist with numerous orchestras, including the Brussels Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Lille, Orchestra della Svizzera italiana, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège, Symfonieorkest Vlaanderen, Limburgs Symfonie Orkest and Solistes Européens Luxembourg. In September 2016, Nathan became the new principal violist at the Gurzenich Orchester, Koln.
Festival appearances include Progretto Martha Argerich in Lugano, Ravinia Festival in Chicago and Festival de Radio France in Montpellier. Since 2010 Nathan regularly performs in duo recitals together with his wife Polina Leschenko.
His début recording for the Fuga Libera label with the complete works for viola, by the Belgian composer Joseph Jongen, has been released to great critical acclaim. Other recordings include the Dvorak piano quartet op.87 released on EMI Classics as part of the Martha Argerich and Friends: Live from the Lugano Festival 2012 series, and Brahms horn trio (viola version) for the Warner Classic label.
Nathan Braude plays a viola by Pietro Giovanni Mantegazza (Milano, 1772).
Karl Stamitz (1745-1801) was a German composer known for his large musical output and contributions to the Mannheim style of composition. He was the son of Johann Stamitz, a Bohemian composer famous for his leadership of the court orchestra at Mannheim and the orchestral techniques that developed as a result. Karl Stamitz initially took music lessons from his father and later went on to study with his successor at the orchestra, Christian Cannabich. In 1762, he began employment with the court orchestra as a violinist and violist. He stayed there until 1770, when he moved to Paris.
In Paris, he worked as the court composer for the Duke of Noailles and a freelance performer. He often performed with his brother, Anton, at the concert series Concerts Spirituels, and frequently traveled through Europe as a virtuoso performer. He lived and performed for a while in London and the Netherlands before finally returning to Germany in 1785, where he continued to tour and search for more permanent work. While working as a performer, he produced numerous compositions, including fifty symphonies, and dozens of instrumental concertos and chamber pieces. Most well-known are his eleven clarinet concertos, which were written as a result of his collaboration with famous virtuoso clarinetist Joseph Beer, and his works for viola, particularly the Concerto in D Major, which is the first known composition to feature left-hand pizzicato. His works bore similarity to those of Haydn or Mozart and are enjoyed for their virtuosity and elegance.
Unfortunately, despite his connections and promise as a musician, Stamitz never found another permanent position after leaving Paris. With a family to support, he quickly went into debt, as he struggled to find consistent work. After giving up traveling, he and his family settled in the small town of Jena in Germany, where they lived an impoverished life. He died shortly after his wife in 1801. Despite the unfortunate end to his story, his legacy as an important Classical era composer lives on.