Pierre Rode: Violin Concerto No.11
Jacques Pierre Joseph Rode (1774-1830), also known as Pierre Rode, was a French violinist and composer. Rode was a pupil of Giovanni Battista viotti, who considered Rode to be the most talented student he ever taught. As a virtuoso violinist, Rode served as violin soloist to Napoleon. He thus toured extensively in Germany, England, Spain and Holland. Rode was well-travelled and also made trips to Moscow, Prague and Paris.
Ludwig van Beethoven wrote his final violin sonata (Op.96) for Rode, when he visited Vienna. Rode played lots of chamber music and solo violin music, however his biggest output came from Viotti’s violin concertos. Rode composed his own violin concertos, thirteen to be exact, with each being modelled on Viotti’s style.
Perhaps now best remembered for his violin concertos, Rode’s works are seldom performed today. At the time, his concertos had some significance in the development of the Romantic concerto. Rode also composed 24 Caprices, which are often part of advanced repertoire for the instrument. Rode’s music and performance style influenced lots of young performers including a young Louis Spohr.
Violin Concerto No.11 was part of the last few works that Rode ever composed. Rode sat at the centre of European musical life, which makes his music some of the most exciting and diverse from that period of time. Perhaps his most inspired concerto, the 11th is expressive, lyrical and fizzing with excitement.
Movement I – Allegro ma non troppo
The animated first movement is sparkling with excitement from the first bar. The driving strings make way for the pleasant upper string melody. The interplay between the winds and strings makes for a really joyous introduction before the soloist enters.
The soloist enters with huge interval jumps that create tension and awe. The fast paced melody lines run through the veins of this movement, with the soloist always in good-humoured zest. The virtuosity displayed by the soloist in this movement keeps the music exciting and full of life.
There is a sense of lyricism throughout with the melodies between the soloist and the orchestra proving to be memorable. After an extensive and impressive cadenza from the soloist, the vivacious opening movement closes with momentum. A flourish from the orchestra ends the movement with such style.
Movement II – Adagio
The lyrical second movement is also the shortest of the three. Luscious rich string writing complements the nuanced wind accentuation. The expressiveness required from the soloist adds to the calm atmosphere throughout. Rode’s harmonic language is interesting in this movement as he creates somewhat unexpected harmonic shifts at pinnacle corners of the movement. A quiet trill ends this movement, with the third movement quickly following.
Movement III – Rondo allegretto
Opening with a perky theme from the soloist, the orchestra answer with pulsating lines. Perhaps the most vivacious of all three movements, this rondo movement is full of good humour from the soloist. One of Rode’s signature techniques is to write big intervallic leaps for the violin, which he does in this movement in abundance.
Quick technical work from the soloist lies at the apex of this movement, with Rode adding in trills, turns and more to add to the bravura of the concerto. As the pace picks up in the last few pages of the concerto, the soloists reaches some of the highest notes of the work. The concerto ends with an epic explosion from the soloist as they soar up and down scales before the final colourful flourish to finish the work off.
Ⓒ Alex Burns