Length: c. 10 minutes
Orchestration: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings, and solo violin
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: November 25, 1929, Artur Rodzinski conducting, with soloist Josef Borissoff
It is no wonder that Camille Saint-Saëns found the medium of the solo concerto and solo showpiece so congenial: his prodigious musical talent was made up in large part of the kind of extroversion and dazzle upon which such works depend. His gift for melodies and the elegant line, his flair for orchestration - in total, his superior craftsmanship - were ideally suited to music in which depth was not demanded.
The present work, written in 1863 and dedicated to the great Spanish violinist, Pablo de Sarasate, operates appealingly on two of the composer's ideal levels: in the slow Introduction, the violin sings a lovely, plaintive melody whose lack of passion tells much about Saint-Saëns' cool, elegant expressiveness; in the Rondo Capriccioso, dash, virtuosity, and songfulness combine in his most effective manner. With the present piece as an example, one readily admits that Saint-Saëns did indeed understand the art of music.
- Orrin Howard