commentary to opus 78

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Suite for Violin solo op. 78 (1982)

I. Fantasia

II. Vivace

III. Metamorphoses beginning


Duration: 19 Minutes

Publisher: N. Simrock Hamburg-London (Boosey & Hawkes) EE 2941 | ISMN M-2211-0843-2


Conventus Musicus CM 106

Video: Hummel on youtube

Ladies and Gentlemen,

After the masterpieces written for solo violin by J.S. Bach, Max Reger and Belß Bartˇk, it is a somewhat risky undertaking to once again deal with this genre of composition. In more recent times, there have been several attempts to reach new shores - starting from the instrumental alienation that is so common in the avant-garde. There have also been attempts to achieve a personal statement with traditional instrumental treatment. To say it in advance, I have opted for the latter possibility.

The Suite for solo violin was composed in 1982 at the suggestion of Joshua Epstein, to whom the work is dedicated.

The three movements Fantasia, Burlesque, Metamorphoses are briefly described:

Fantasia: The arioso style of the beginning - with a baroque phrase - as well as the interval e'' - b'' appear again and again in the course of the movement. Unchanging sequences of notes, their possible inversions and transpositions are evolved in a chain of variants. In the extreme pp, the movement ends with the three-stroked b.

The Burlesque brings a restless, virtuoso element into play. Thoughts from the 1st movement are taken up again and incorporated into the structure of the movement.

In the 3rd movement Metamorphoses, additional tonal material is introduced to that already present. Rhapsodic and recitative-like sections contrast with rhythmically accentuated sequences. In its summation of the material, this 3rd movement forms, as it were, the development of the two preceding movements.

The next 18 minutes will show how far I have succeeded in making the listener understand what I have just described.

Bertold Hummel (concert introduction, Munich 29.10.1985)

The "Suite for Solo Violin" op. 78 was composed in 1982 at the suggestion of the violinist Joshua Epstein, to whom this composition is also dedicated.

The work is entirely in the line of the great classical solo compositions for violin. Especially in op. 78, Hummel's great skill in dealing with the instrument becomes clear. He writes for the instrument and yet makes use of the great virtuosity in the sound possibilities. Just as effectively as he handles the violin, he also treats the underlying thematic material.

In the first movement ("Fantasia"), there is an ariosoductus with a baroque phrase at the beginning, which, together with the fifth motif "E - B", appears again and again in a form-structuring manner. Behind this material, one might suspect references to J. S. Bach's solo suite and the relationship between the spiritual motor of op. 78, Joshua Epstein (E), and its composer, Bertold Hummel (H) ...

The 2nd movement ("Vivace") brings a restless, virtuoso element into play. Despite a new, contrasting gesture, Hummel quite consciously maintains the connection to the 1st movement by repeatedly taking up thoughts from the 1st movement and linking them to the new movement structure.

The formal culmination of the solo suite is reached in the 3rd movement, which has the subtitle "Metamorphoses". The already existing thematic material is expanded for dramaturgical reasons and related to its primal elements. Rhapsodic and recitative sections are juxtaposed with rhythmically accentuated ones. This movement, which is also the longest because of its theme, represents in its summation of the tonal material, as it were, the development of the two preceding movements.

Ulrich Schulthei▀ (in: Booklet for the CD Bertold Hummel - Music for Strings, Conventus Musicus, Dettelbach 1996)


Deutsche Tagespost, 21st March, 1987

Joshua Epstein is the soloist in the Suite fŘr Violine solo, op. 78, which is also dedicated to him. It builds on earlier models, principally Johann Sebastian Bach. Reger, Hindemith and Prokofieff all profited from the already far advanced virtuosity of the performers' technique. Hummel has given the violin its due: he understands the sounds available and the technical reserves and exploits them effectively, filling them with musical impulses whose brilliance is appreciated by Epstein.

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