Tuesday 2 August 2011

Elgar's Violin Concerto at the Proms: Then and now

It's one of the mightiest of all violin concertos and one of the longest.  At around 50 minutes in length, Elgar's concerto is one of the greatest challenges in the repertoire, though a look at the Proms archive shows that the work is less often heard than it once was.  Tasmin Little comes to the Albert Hall tonight to give the concerto its 33rd Proms outing, though only two of the previous 32 have been in the last ten years. 

Little played the piece in 1994, but at (what will be) two performances, she's some way down the leader board.  Albert Sammons, who made what some consider to be the difinitive recording of the work, with Proms founder Henry Wood in 1929, clocked up an admirable 8 performances between 1914 and 1944 (all but one with Henry Wood).  Ida Haendel gave 4 between 1942 and 1986, though its highly unlikely that she'll add any more to that tally.  The most celebrated performer of the work, Yehudi Menuhin, gave just 2 (1946 and 1972; both with Adrian Boult).

Another Proms Elgarian is Itzhak Perlman, still performing but rather less active than he once was.  He solitary performance of the work came in 1981 and was captured on film.  It's available as a DVD now, and a chunk of it can be seen below.

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