Vieuxtemps: Cadenzas WoO 1 and WoO 2
© Martin Wulfhorst 2021
Presumably Karl Holz (1798-1868), Beethoven’s copyist, not only asked young Vieuxtemps to perform Beethoven’s Violin Concerto at one of the traditional Viennese Concerts spirituels on March 16, 1834 but also showed him Beethoven’s own Cadenzas to the piano transcription of his Violin Concerto op. 61a. Most likely this did not happen during the short preparation time that Vieuxtemps had for his Vienna debut (two weeks, according to his Autobiographical Letters, p. 62) but at a later time. Perhaps Vieuxtemps saw Beethoven’s Cadenza during his next encounter with Holz while he visited Vienna in 1837---an encounter documented by a note by Holz from May 1837 in Vieuxtemps’s artist’s album (Marie Cornaz, "Henry Vieuxtemps: Sur les traces d'un jeune violoniste virtuose," Monte Artium 1 , pp. 57-72, see p. 63).
From Beethoven’s first-movement Cadenza op. 61a Vieuxtemps adapted for his Cadenza WoO 1 the B-flat major opening as well as the idea of incorporating the timpani and its five-note motive. But differently than Beethoven in his Cadenza, Vieuxtemps turned the timpani signal into the backdrop for a lyrical episode with an expressive chordal string accompaniment.
This beautiful, striking section from WoO 1 was included also in the second, presumably later Cadenza WoO 2, which featured more detailed articulation and dynamics and included more extensive virtuosic sections. Vieuxtemps’s Cadenzas WoO 1 and WoO 2 represent perhaps more successful implementations of Beethoven’s idea to incorporate the timpani than the attempts of several violinists to transcribe the first-movement cadenza Beethoven himself wrote for the piano transcription of the Violin Concerto (see list). They should also be of particular interest to period-instrument performers and adherents of historically informed performers: the Cadenzas originated only a few decades after the Concerto and are written in the style of the French violin school admired by Beethoven.
Whereas the Cadenza WoO 2 shares about half of the material with WoO 2, the first-movement Cadenza WoO 3 is entirely original—except except for seven measures borrowed from WoO 2. Most important, Vieuxtemps abandoned the idea of an accompanied cadenza (perhaps because of a bad experience with less than competent players?). Like most cadenza composers, Vieuxtemps in his set WoO 3, included cadenzas for only three of Beethoven’s five cadenza points (see Wulfhorst 2009).
The interrelations between the Cadenzas suggest the following tentative chronology:
• between 1837 and 1842: Vieuxtemps becomes acquainted with Beethoven’s Cadenzas op. 61a and composes WoO 1.
• around 1842–43: Vieuxtemps revises the Cadenza (WoO 2)
•1846: Vieuxtemps composes the Cadenza set WoO 3.
Henry Vieuxtemps • Cadenzas to Beethoven’s Violin Concerto
© Martin Wulfhorst 2021