Violin Concerto No.5

Niccolò Paganini

Violin Concerto No.5 in A minor

MS78, MS5649

About this work

Paganini wrote this concerto (one of the most showily virtuosic ever written) to flaunt his violinistic virtuosity as no other music of his time could. In and around melodies that are ardently if not profoundly expressive the soloist gets to show off lines in the violin's highest compass, wide leaps of register, dashing scales and arpeggios, strings of trills, left-hand =pizzicati=, and passages in harmonics and double stops . The orchestra accompanies discretely and sometimes speaks up in =tutti= passages of its own. Much of the music recalls opera, and subtlety is never the order of the day. The structure is episodic and the music often jumps rather than flows from section to section. Shifts between the major and minor modes are common.

Paganini never completed this concerto's orchestration. This description is based on Federico Mompellio's accompaniment, premiered in 1959.

The opening =Allegro maestoso= is dramatic, often melodramatic in tone. After a peremptory drum roll and some brass fanfares the orchestral violins lead two themes (with occasional help from woodwinds), and an oboe begins a musing third idea in dialogue with a flute. The soloist enters with the first theme and begins to intersperse it with virtuosic passagework. Several more virtuosic episodes follow, and the soloist sometimes presents the oboe's theme in octaves.

String =tremolandi=, melodic woodwind phrases, and diminished chords introduce intense drama into the central =Andante, un poco sostenuto=. The violin projects a heartfelt, sometimes ardent, melody that is intricately ornamented yet never virtuosic.

The lilting =andantino quasi allegretto= rondo-finale is unequivocally glad to be alive. The soloist begins the merry minor-mode refrain, and the orchestra eventually follows with another idea. The first episode extends the tone of the refrain as the soloist leads lyrically in double stops, sometimes dialoguing with clarinet and flute. Some mildly fanfarish brass chords introduce the second episode where the violin plays trills or skittish arpeggios in hemiola over lilting flute and oboe melodies.