“You can’t rely on virtuosity in Beethoven’s concerto; you have to reveal yourself,” says María Dueñas. And that can only be done through sound.” The supremely talented Spanish violinist will launch her Deutsche Grammophon career in bold fashion by delivering an intriguingly individual interpretation of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, one of the most musically demanding and emotionally profound works in the repertoire. The concerto was recorded live during a recent run of three acclaimed performances at Vienna’s Musikverein with the Wiener Symphoniker and Manfred Honeck. It is now the opening work on her DG debut album, Beethoven and Beyond. Featuring her own newly written cadenzas for each movement, the recording reveals María Dueñas as both performer and composer.
The album also includes a series of both popular and lesser-known showpieces for violin and orchestra by Kreisler, Saint-Saëns, Spohr, Wieniawski and Ysaÿe. To complement these works and the concerto, Dueñas has recorded a companion disc of cadenzas written for the first movement of the Beethoven by those same five composers. Beethoven and Beyond is scheduled for release on 5 May 2023.
María Dueñas, who has been studying in Vienna with the world-renowned Professor Boris Kuschnir for several years, won first prize with her interpretation of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto at the final of the Viktor Tretyakov International Violin Competition in September 2021. By then, DG had already invited her to record the work on the strength of a performance given earlier that year with the Dresdner Philharmoniker and Marek Janowski. “Beethoven’s Violin Concerto has accompanied me during the most important moments of my life,” notes Dueñas. “The move from Germany to Vienna on the recommendation of my mentor Maestro Vladimir Spivakov, my education, and now the recording – Beethoven has always played a part.” She is particularly pleased to have recorded the work with Manfred Honeck, another of her mentors.
Beethoven wrote his Violin Concerto for Franz Clement, one of the greatest players of the age. Completed two days before the premiere in December 1806, his score embraced Clement’s famed virtuosity and set him and his successors a supreme musical challenge. Its first movement alone lasts more than twenty-five minutes. The stillness of its slow movement is offset by the surging energy of its finale, qualities underlined by the exquisite lyricism and the rhythmic vitality of María Dueñas’s reading here.
As noted by Spanish music magazine Codalario in a review of one of her January 2023 performances at the Musikverein, Dueñas’s strength of personality emerged to the full when, during the first movement, she stepped away from tradition to offer her own cadenza. “It was like a breath of fresh air,” wrote the critic, “revealing her beautiful sound, with double and triple stops, rich trills and, above all, despite its modernity, an enormous respect for the essence of Beethoven.”
Fascinated by the process of composition, not content with writing and recording cadenzas for all three movements herself, Dueñas has recorded five other Beethoven first-movement cadenzas. These demonstrate five very different approaches to the concerto by composers of various periods and cultural backgrounds. They range from that of Beethoven’s contemporary Spohr, with its Mozartian touches, to the virtuosity of Kreisler’s famous cadenza, via the immense technical demands made by Wieniawski and Ysaÿe and the Romantic spirit of Saint-Saëns’s version.
Adding further depth to her debut album, the artist has chosen to include another work for violin and orchestra by each of the five. Among her selections are three well-known favourites: Kreisler’s Liebesleid, Saint-Saëns’ Havanaise and Wieniawski’s Légende. Less familiar are the sublime Adagio from Spohr’s Symphonie concertante No. 1 and Ysaÿe’s Berceuse. “It is very important to me to present pieces that are not so well known but nevertheless have a lot of musical value,” says Dueñas. She is once again provided with sensitive accompaniment by the Wiener Symphoniker and Manfred Honeck.
The film of her Musikverein performance, which includes her interpretations of Kreisler’s Liebesleid and Ysaÿe’s Berceuse as well as the Beethoven, will be premiered exclusively on DG’s STAGE+ at 8pm CEST on 20 May. Dueñas will also be reunited with Manfred Honeck, who is Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, when she plays Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole with him and the orchestra at Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh later this year (16‑18 June).
María Dueñas plays the Nicolò Gagliano violin of 17?4, kindly loaned by the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben, and the Stradivarius “Camposelice” of 1710, on generous loan from the Nippon Music Foundation.