Bunte Reihe for Violin and Piano, Op.30
Perhaps it was coincidence, but Ferdinand David (1810-1873) was born in the same house in Hamburg as Felix Mendelssohn one year later. The two became colleagues and friends. David studied violin with the famous virtuoso Louis Spohr. He served as concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under the baton of Mendelssohn and held the position of Professor of Violin at the Leipzig Conservatory. Among his many famous students were Joseph Joachim and August Wilhelmj. His name has endured as the editor of several famous chamber music works and as well as pieces for the violin. Among his compositions still in use are his Advanced School of Violin Playing and Art of Bowing.
Another work which has kept his name alive is the Op.30 Bunte Reihe, a series of 24 short pieces for violin and piano. The German Bunte Reihe, literally “colored series” perhaps is more accurately translated as “character pieces of different moods”. They were composed in the 1840’s. When Franz Liszt heard David performing them, he was so taken that he transcribed them for solo piano. It is in this version that they have lived on. These 24 character pieces are written in the 12 major and 12 minor keys of the chromatic scale. The point being that each of these keys has its own particular tonal “color”. The pieces reflect the world of Mendelssohn and Schumann, the two leading composers of the day.
Originally published in four books of six pieces each, we have combined them into two books of twelve. Space does not allow a detailed description of all 24 pieces. However, to give a “thumbnail sketch” we find in Book One the opening Scherzo which is both delicate and charming, while the Erinnergung (Souvenir) which comes next brings forth a Schumanesque nostalgia. The Kinderlied (Children’s Song) rivals Schumann’s Kinderszenen in its innocence and charm and the following Bolero recalls Chopin’s Polonaise Militaire, though the mood is lighter and not so martial in spirit. The ensuing Elegie, also with a vague air of Chopin, is among the most compelling of the set while the Gondellied (Gondolier’s Song) with its gentle murmuring, is evocative of gliding through calm waters. The concluding Toccata and Im Sturm (In the Storm) appeal by their virtue of their technical brilliance and range of color.
In Book Two, the attractive Menuetto, with its allusions to both Schubert and Schumann, well deserves the lengthy treatment David gives it. The following Serenade with its understated manner and charm as well as its delicate moods is deftly-executed. The spirited Ungarisch (Hungarian Dance), using Hungarian folk material is dramatic and effective as is the equally virtuosic Tarantelle. In russische Weise (In a Russian Meadow) combines Russian melody with a pastoral mood while the two closing works Lied (Song) and Capriccio both offer considerable appeal, the former owing to its Schumannesque thematic allure and the latter to the delicate brilliance of the writing.
Our new edition combines the the first two and last two books making the works more affordable, a moot point since they are no longer in print. Every violinist should have at least one or two of these gems in their repertoire as did virtually every violinist before the First World War, after which they sadly disappeared. Not only can anyone of these little gems serve as an encore, but they can be put together to make a program selection of any length as our soundbites illustrate, or even make an entire concert.
(A) Book One Op.30 Nos.1-12
(B) Book Two Op.30 Nos.13-24
(C) Book One & Book Two