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ClassicsOnline Home » BERIOT, C.A. de: Duo concertants / 6 Duos caracteristiques (Sohn, Marcus)
Complementing the release of Bériot’s Violin Concertos Nos. 1, 8 & 9 (8.555104) and Nos. 2, 3 & 5 (8.570360), this disc presents his equally virtuosic Duos concertants for two violins whose disarming lyricism, cheerful vivacity and Classical three-movement structure mask many formidable technical challenges. Based on themes from Prince Yusupov’s once popular Ballet Espagnol, Bériot’s Six Characteristic Duos add a dash of Iberian sunshine, the two violins imitating guitars, romancing each other, marching together and even dancing a fandango and bolero.
By Robert Maxham
By Michael Cookson
By Brian Reinhart
Charles-Auguste de Bériot (1802–1870)
Duos Concertants, Op. 57 • Six Duos caractéristiques, Op. 113
Charles-Auguste de Bériot was born in Louvain in 1802 and was to become one of the most distinguished violinists of the Belgian school, followed by players such as Vieuxtemps, Ysaÿe, Hubert Léonard, Massart, Marsick, Prume and César Thomson. De Bériot played a Viotti concerto in public at the age of nine and after the death of his parents in 1812 became the ward of his teacher Jean-François Tiby. He took some lessons from André Robberechts, a pupil of Viotti, and in 1821 travelled to Paris to play for Viotti, who advised him to try to perfect his style, to listen to other players but to imitate none, counsel that he seems largely to have accepted, and akin to the advice he later gave to his own pupil Vieuxtemps. In 1819 Viotti had taken up the position of director of the Paris Opéra, after the failure of his wine business in London. He was to resign in November 1821, but at the time of de Bériot’s appearance in Paris he was busily involved with his official duties. The boy was able, however, to take some lessons from Viotti’s pupil Baillot, who had for some years been teaching at the Conservatoire.
By 1824 de Bériot had embarked on a career as a virtuoso that brought him, in 1826, the title of violon de la chambre du roi to King Charles X. He also held the position of violinist to King Wilhelm I of The Netherlands, with a useful stipend, but both came to an end with the disturbances of 1830 in France and the Low Countries and the separation of Belgium and Holland. His meeting with the distinguished soprano Maria Malibran, daughter of the tenor Manuel García and sister of Pauline Viardot, was to lead to a partnership from 1829 and finally to marriage, after the annulment of her first marriage to Eugène Malibran. From 1832 they spent their time chiefly in England and Italy, eventually marrying in March 1836, three years after the birth in Paris of their son Charles-Wilfrid, who was to make a name for himself as a pianist. Maria Malibran died in Manchester during a Festival there in September 1836, six months after her marriage, after earlier injuries resulting from a fall from a horse while she was pregnant. A few years later Heine was to observe that the soul of Malibran continued to sing through the melting and sweet tones of her husband’s violin.
In 1838 de Bériot undertook concert tours in Austria and Italy with his wife’s sister, and appeared in the major cities of Germany with the pianist Thalberg. Two years later he married Marie Huber, the daughter of an Austrian magistrate, and from then on limited his concert tours, buying a house at Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, near Brussels. In 1842 he was offered the succession to Baillot at the Paris Conservatoire, but rejected the invitation, in 1843 accepting the position of principal professor of the violin at the Conservatoire in Brussels. He was now able to enjoy the performance of chamber music with members of his Cercle des arts, meeting at his house. Failing health and eye-sight was to lead to de Bériot’s resignation from the Conservatoire in 1852. He continued to give concerts, and in 1859 accepted an invitation from Prince Nikolay Yusupov to visit Russia. Paralysis of the left arm in 1866 put an end to his career and he died in Brussels in 1870.
De Bériot’s compositions include thirteen published sets of variations for violin and piano, the first dating from about 1820 and the last appearing in 1866, ten violin concertos, the last of which was published posthumously in 1871, with some fifty duets and studies which continue to serve their original pedagogical purpose. As a teacher and player he brought to its height the Franco-Belgian school of violin-playing that was to prove of such importance, combining something of Paganini’s virtuosity with the Paris school of violin-playing, exemplified by Baillot, Kreutzer and Rode, although his study under Baillot had proved irksome, unproductive and short-lived.
De Bériot’s Trois duos concertants pour deux violons, Op. 57, provide a satisfactory addition to two violin repertoire. The first Duo, in G minor, opens emphatically, the first violin marked risoluto and the second fieramente, and the former carrying the melodic interest. A secondary theme in B flat major is introduced and passed briefly to the second violin. After a short development the opening theme returns and both violins join in a G major version of the secondary theme, before the movement comes to a close. The first violin presents the principal theme of the E flat major Adagio moderato, accompanied by demisemiquaver figuration from the second violin, which is allowed to introduce a secondary theme. The Duo ends with a Rondo, its G minor principal theme introduced by the first violin and followed by a B flat major episode which forms the substance of a second episode in G major, the key in which the movement ends.
The second Duo concertant, in E minor, has the first violin state the principal theme, followed by the second violin an octave lower. Both violins join in the G major secondary theme at an octave interval, to be continued by the first violin. The two themes are to return, the second in E major. The slow movement shifts to C major, the second violin opening with accompaniment figuration to the first violin’s theme. Contrasting material brings a passage of dialogue in A minor before the return of the principal theme. The last movement is again a Rondo, its bowed staccato principal theme entrusted to the first violin, with an emphatic double-stopped accompanying figure from the second violin. This is interrupted by a chordal passage in which both instruments join, leading to a G major episode introduced by the octaves of the first violin. The first part of the movement is repeated, followed by the secondary theme in C major. The main theme returns, bringing the earlier chordal passage, now in E major, and the secondary thematic material, now also in the tonic major key.
The set ends with the Duo concertant in D major. The first movement starts with sustained notes from the first violin, accompanied by the plucked notes of the second, before rôles are reversed. An exciting transition and a passage in octaves from the first violin, with an accompanying pattern of triplets from the second violin, leads to a secondary theme, echoed an octave higher by the second violin. The recapitulation, with the necessary modulation, offers a slightly elaborated version of the first theme. The gentle slow movement is in F major, presenting a theme, that as elsewhere in these duos, has operatic connotations. The work ends with an Allegretto in 6/8, starting in D minor and leading to a theme in A major, marked con spirito, followed by a return of the first theme and key, followed by the secondary theme in D major and a Vivace assai coda.
Prince Nikolay Borisovich Yusupov was a descendant of one of Russia’s oldest established aristocratic families. In his wide artistic interests he followed other members of the family and was a violin pupil of Vieuxtemps, taking lessons from him during the latter’s period in St Petersburg and continuing the relationship. Vieuxtemps, a pupil of de Bériot, dedicated his concert duet for violin and cello on themes from Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, written with the cellist Servais, to Yusupov, whose writings included a history of the violin and violin-makers, Luthmonographie, written in French and published in Leipzig in 1856. Yusupov also began a history of music in Russia and as a composer produced a Concerto Symphonique for violin and orchestra, a work that he played with his own orchestra, among other compositions. In October 1859 de Bériot became music director of Yusupov’s private orchestra, holding the position until May the following year.
De Bériot took themes from Yusupov’s once popular Ballet Espagnol for his six Duos caractéristiques, Op. 113, for two violins. The G major Adagio that opens the set starts with plucked notes, before the first violin introduces the romantic melody. Marked Moderato, tempo di marcia, the C major second movement, with its dotted rhythm, is, as the direction indicates, a march. It is followed by an E flat major Andante cantabile that offers a melody based on the descending and ascending scale. This leads to a C minor Tempo di fandango, a more obviously Spanish element, and a melancholy A minor Andantino. The overtly Spanish and balletic return to end the set with a final D major Moderato, tempo di bolero.
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BERIOT, C.A. de: Duo concertants / 6 Duos caracter...