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December 23, 2006 marks the bicentennial of the first performance
of this Concerto in Vienna.
I would like to present here a discography of one of my big passions, Beethoven´s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61 (and 61a). The story of my very special enthusiasm for this famous classic Violin Concerto began in September 1945, in Bergen-Belsen, one of the former Nazi Concentration Camps. I was liberated on April 23, 1945 near Donaueschingen, in the southwest of Germany. When it came to my knowledge, by accident, that three of my sisters had survived the holocaust in Bergen-Belsen, I immediately went to meet them. The journey north was very difficult, there was no regular traffic yet in this early post-war Germany. I arrived at the former Concentration Camp in Bergen-Belsen just a week after my sisters had received the very sad message that I had perished in Auschwitz. As you can imagine, our joy was great, and it took some time for us to calm down. So one day it happened that my oldest sister told me: "what a pity that you did not come in July. You would have enjoyed listening to the nice music Yehudi Menuhin and Benjamin Britten played for us survivors" (Yehudi Menuhin: Unfinished Journey, page 239, Futura Publications Limited, London, 1978). It took several years for me to realize that my sister´s words had initiated a process that has strongly influenced my life. It is as if a very special seed was planted in fertile soil in my youth, and throughout my life has grown into a great, richly outbranching tree, and thus my passion for classical music has grown and formed itself into an inseparable part of my being. In the autumn of 1946, I began my studies of medicine at the university in Göttingen. I lived in a dormitory where I shared a room with three others. I bought my first record player after I had moved into my own apartment. I realized that most of my records were of the Violin Concerto performed by Yehudi Menuhin. I listened to them endlessly, enjoyed the concert profoundly, and could not ever grow tired of it. Many, many years have passed, but my interest in this opus, and my strong emotional bond to it, have only grown deeper. I began collecting recordings of the concerto, and with time the curiosity of learning as much as possible about the concerto grew stronger. At first, my interest was "only" in finding out how many recordings there were of the concerto.
Later, I began collecting the corresponding literature, searching in catalogues and archives of various music libraries to find more information. This developed into something that I can only describe with a word I have borrowed from Obstetric medicine, where it describes the infant´s supply of oxygen during labour: a "Mount Everest syndrome". The higher one climbs, the more one sees. My curiosity grew further, and I wanted to learn more of the Violin Concerto; where and when it was recorded, who conducted it and which orchestra performed it, which violin maker had built the soloist´s violin and which cadenzas the soloist played, the recording time of the different movements. My interest moved on to the performers: their education and teachers, their repertoire, awards and prizes. I explored all available sources, lately mostly via the internet, to research as much information as possible about the soloists. The material grew quite extensive, and now the time has come to evaluate it all. This activity brings me much pleasure and joy. The Violin Concerto has lovingly followed me throughout my life. It has graciously led me to several wonderful meetings and experiences. In addition to this, I am convinced that there could be no better time than the bicentennial of its first performance on December 23, to offer my homage to its composer, Ludwig van Beethoven, and its interpreters.
This discography also includes the transcription of the Violin Concerto for piano written by van Beethoven: Piano Concerto (No. 6), in D Major, Op. 61a.
I could not resist the temptation to include some live performances into this discography, too.
Further chapters such as personal data about the performers, my musical collection and so forth are still under development, and I will add them in the foreseeable future.
I welcome comments and ideas.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have stood by me during this process, especially my family, who have been very patient and understanding. For the active help in creating this webpage, I extend special thanks to Sten Wiksten.
Leon Weintraub, MD, PhD