A Musical Companion: A Guide to the Understanding and Enjoyment of Music

By John Erskine | Go to book overview
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THE VIOLIN IN SOLO AND CONCERTO

CHAPTER I
THE STANDARD WORKS

(a) BACH AND BEFORE

THE REPERTORY of the modern violinist includes nothing earlier than the works of the Italian masters of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Even these have been but casually explored. Immediately after the World War, when national pride and susceptibilities were still on fire in every land, propaganda did useful work in searching out and seeking to revive old glories. One fruit of this work was the publication in Italy of a number of old sonatas by Veracini and other masters, which at the time attracted considerable attention. When the political need for propaganda ceased, its value for purposes of information on artistic and other matters of general interest was lost sight of and its good deeds forgotten. The paintings of the old masters were sent abroad on loan; the music of old masters remained at home unsung and unhonoured.

It must be admitted, however, that violinists have shown little desire to investigate for themselves, preferring the special editions prepared by players with a talent for adapting the sturdy art of the old masters to the supposed requirements of modern tastes. Perhaps the best-known example of old Italian music is the set of variations by Corelli on La Folia. It is never played in its original form, the favourite edition being one prepared by the Belgian violinist Léonard. Léonard curtails the original somewhat, but adds by way of a makeweight a cadenza of his own which is brilliant, not very difficult, and wholly unnecessary. Another case in point is that of the Gavotte from Bach's unaccompanied Sonata in E, a piano accompaniment for which has recently been added by a well-known violinist. The accompaniment, if superfluous, is ingenious. But the addition of a

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