Beethoven: Violin Concerto
Daniel Lozakovich had been dreaming about recording the Beethoven Violin Concerto since he was eight. He first performed it on stage when he was thirteen, and at fifteen, a few months after appearing with Valery Gergiev for the first time, he was invited by the Maestro to perform the concerto with him in Moscow at the opening of the 15th Easter Festival. Three years later, and following numerous collaborations since their first meeting, he reunited with his mentor Valery Gergiev to record the Beethoven for Deutsche Grammophon with the Münchner Philharmoniker, with whom Lozakovich has been working for almost as long. With the physical release set for 25 September, the recording is already available to stream as an e-album video.
Lozakovich was clear from the start that this should be a live recording: “There’s a particular magic about a live concert,” he explains. “The audience creates a unique atmosphere, there is a different concentration with the energy of the public and the music becomes more alive.”
The premiere of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, a work composed in the space of a few weeks in 1806, was greeted with a mixed reception. One critic’s blunt opinion was that its continuity suffered from frequent interruptions and that “the endless repetitions of some commonplace passages could easily become wearisome”. Such reviews probably help explain why the concerto fell into neglect for several decades thereafter, until Joseph Joachim and Felix Mendelssohn revived it in London in 1844.
Beethoven’s Opus 61 undeniably stands in a category by itself. Lozakovich goes as far as to call it the greatest concerto of all time – and the now nineteen-year-old is quick to clarify that he doesn’t just mean the best violin concerto: “No, it really is the greatest concerto ever written.”
He points to the work’s incredible purity, the simplicity of its material and the clarity with which it is written. And yet, he adds, the most important thing is the depth of the music. “The beauty of its themes is heavenly.”
Virtuosity’s only purpose is to help the music – so says a violinist renowned worldwide for his sophisticated, mature playing: Lozakovich is in the process of finding his own personal Beethoven sound. As he pursues this quest, his role models are more likely to be great conductors and pianists than fellow violinists. He’s studying other works by Beethoven to find all possible connections and similarities, especially music from the same period as the Violin Concerto – the Fourth Symphony, Razumovsky Quartets and Fourth Piano Concerto, for example. And he’s reading a lot: Beethoven’s letters, biographies of the composer, but also Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus. “You can learn some interesting theories about Beethoven from this novel,” he explains. “Mann borrowed particularly from Adorno’s work on Beethoven, which I learned a lot from too. The novel’s a world of its own – it’s amazing.”
For Lozakovich, then, technique is a means to an end, nothing more. “Beethoven wrote a symphonic concerto, the first ever written,” he observes. “And that’s how it has to be performed. Soloist and orchestra are absolute equals, they’re both just as important to the structure. That’s the reason why it was so important to me to record this work with Maestro Gergiev.”
He sees the Beethoven as particularly important, indeed revolutionary, in another respect too – because it represents the bridge between Classicism and Romanticism. It’s close enough to the latter for Lozakovich’s choice of Fritz Kreisler’s magnificent cadenzas to suit his interpretation to absolute perfection.