Romance No. 1 in G major, Op. 40
Ludwig van Beethoven
Composed: c. 1801
Length: c. 8 minutes
Orchestration: flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, strings, and solo violin
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances: December 13, 1945, Otto Klemperer conducting, with soloist Joseph Szigeti
Although the focus of his study and interest was always on the keyboard, Beethoven received training on the violin through his childhood and youth, and as a young man played viola in the opera and chapel orchestras in his native Bonn. After moving to Vienna, he was also fortunate to form enduring collaborative friendships with many of that cultural center’s finest string players.
None of which provides clues about when and why he wrote Romance No. 1 and Romance No. 2 for solo violin and small orchestra. There is speculation that one of them might have originally been a slow movement to go with the substantial but fragmentary first movement of a violin concerto in C major that Beethoven began — and abandoned — in the early 1790s, while still in Bonn. (LA Phil Principal Concertmaster Martin Chalifour played that Allegro movement with the orchestra here ten years ago.) Both Romances, however, seem to have been written after his move to the Austrian capital. The second numbered one was composed first, but not published until 1805, hence its higher numbers. Written in the first years of the 19th century, the Romance No. 1 was published in 1803.
Both are rondos in form, with lyrical principal themes that alternate with more extroverted sections. The emphasis in both is on expressive grace, with development by embellishment and elaboration rather than motivic dissection.