Whether or not you are a violinist, you may recognize the melody on this card as the main theme of the Beethoven violin concerto. This concerto, opus 61, was completed in 1806 and was part of an extremely prolific period in Beethoven’s life when he was composing other pieces such as the Fourth piano concerto, the fourth and fifth symphonies and the “Razumovsky” string quartets. The violin concerto was commissioned and premiered by the music director and concert master of the Theater an der Wein, Franz Clement. The concerto had a rough start because of some early, less than stellar performances. However, the virtuoso violinist Joseph Joachim studied it and worked through its challenging musical and technical issues, elevating the concerto to its position as one of the most beautiful pieces in the classical violin repertoire.1
Beethoven said of this concerto that it is “an extremely delightful tenderness and purity.”2 Ironically, I chose to have this melody grow out of a dogwood tree not aware of its symbolism. The dogwood flower has connections to Christianity with its emphasis on rebirth and resurrection. It also represents purity, strength and affection.3 This card is important to me because as a young violinist trying to study with as many great violinists I could meet and play music with as many talented violin students as possible, I fell into the habit of considering my own violin music to be less than. It is incredibly important that we always love our own music. It is always beautiful just like a flower is beautiful even before it has bloomed. It holds the potential birth of all of our dreams that have not yet been fully realized.
When practicing the Beethoven violin concerto, one must have a firm grasp of the D Major harmony. It is treacherous because it must resonate with all of the violin’s open strings as well as fit with the tempered tuning systems of the other instruments in the score including woodwinds, horns and timpani. My favorite part of this concerto happens about 12 minutes into the 1st movement – Listen for it! I grew up with the Isaac Stern recording with the New York Philharmonic, directed by Leonard Bernstein. I just listened to a performance by Itzhak Perlman with the Berlin Philharmonic, directed by Daniel Barenboim which is different but also very beautiful. Listen to this concerto. It will be the light of your life and feel like the blooming of Dogwood flowers, signally the beginning of springtime.