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The story of Schumann’s violin concerto is one of the most convoluted in classical music history.  It includes a composer who was past the breaking point, friends  and family trying to save his reputation, a séance, Anti-Semitism, and another composer the Nazi regime considered a degenerate.

When Robert Schumann composed his Violin Concerto in d minor, it was 1853. He was mighty close to the fateful night when he jumped into the nearly frozen Rhine River.  By then his insanity had become clear to all his friends.

Joseph Joachim (the work’s dedicatee), Schumann’s  dear friend Johannes Brahms, and Schumann’s wife Clara thought the concerto reflected his instability too much. Joachim went so far as to say that it suffered from “mental lassitude,” “bewildering passages,” “morbid brooding,” and “tiresome repetitions.” 

Joachim was put in charge of the score. He decided to sit on it.  After Joachim died in 1907, it passed to the Prussian State Library with the stipulation that it not be published until 100 years after the composer’s death (1854).

Joachim’s niece, Jelly d’Aranyi, a well-known violinist in her own right, claimed that she’d heard of the concerto in a spiritual visitation (more likely, her uncle had "spilled the beans" to her before he died). 

d’Aranyi wanted to perform it. But this was Germany in 1937. The Nazi party claimed she was of Jewish heritage, and forbade the performance. 

When it did premiere later that year, the solo parts had been almost totally re-written by Paul Hindemith, even though by then the Nazis had branded Hindemith degenerate. 

Iit wasn’t until 84 years after the work’s completion that it was finally heard as Schumann had composed it. The premiere of the true Schumann violin concerto was at Carnegie Hall, with the New York Philharmonic and pianist Georges Enescu.

 

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