Edouard Lalo Composer
Fantaisie norveggienné, for violin and orchestra
Musicology:The decade of the 1870s was a breakout period for French composer Édouard Lalo (1823 - 1892). As his dates show, success in music came late for him. He even gave up composing for several years. In the late 1860s, he resumed, stimulated by the offer of a composition prize by the Paris Théâtre Lyrique. The opera, Fiesque, won only a third prize and was never performed, but Lalo recycled its ballet music as an orchestral suite called Divertissement, which caused admiration at its Paris premiere in 1872. Its success led to an opportunity to write a new violin concerto for the Spanish virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate. The resulting Violin Concerto premiered in 1874 and pleased its audience. As a result, Lalo felt secure in his career as a composer for the first time. In gratitude he wrote the Sinfonie espagnole, Op. 21, for Sarasate. It proved to be Lalo's most popular and enduring work, and led to further collaborations between Lalo and the great Spanish virtuoso.
Fantaisie norveggienné, for violin and orchestraYear: 1878
Pr. Instrument: Violin
- 1.Allegretto non troppo
- 3.Allegro, Presto
Having hit big by introducing ethnic music and indicating its exotic origins in its title, Lalo repeated the formula. The new success of Edvard Grieg had awakened Europe to the charms of the folk music of that composer's native Norway. Sarasate had collected some folk tunes while on an earlier trip to that country, and gave them to Lalo to use in the new work.
The Fantaisie norvégienne is a three-movement mini-concerto, about 14 minutes long. The first movement, Andantino; Allegretto non troppo, is a two-part structure, something like a short version of a Liszt rhapsody in which a slow and passionate theme is followed by faster dance music. This first section contrasts a calm and rustic tune for oboe with the heartfelt violin theme, which affords the soloist a chance to display cascading scales and arpeggios. The second section is faster, with a bright folk tune that also includes brilliant display passages.
The second movement, Andante, is based on a gentle tune in 3/4 time, warmly orchestrated. As the violin repeats the theme, it tends to decorate it with arabesques and other violinistic flights at the end of its phrases.
The finale, Allegro, has a tune that is close to some of Grieg's Norwegian dances in spirit. Once again, violinistic devices abound, including an overuse of left-hand pizzicato notes. Other stock devices from the French school abound: passages that turn into harmonics halfway through, spiccato bowing, and other fiddle tricks that are more athletic than musical. In the end the pleasant Norwegian tune is overwhelmed, like a necklace of musical jewels that are too heavy for the strand.
Lalo might have come to a similar conclusion: The next year he rewrote the piece without the violin, casting it into a two-movement rhapsody form and calling it Rapsodie norvégienne.
© Joseph Stevenson, All Music Guide