Godard, Benjamin – Violin Concerto No. 2 Op. 131 (Piano reduction / Violin part)
For more information about the piece read the preface of the full score:
French composer Benjamin Godard was a child prodigy and often compared to Mozart early in his career. Educated at the Paris Conservatoire, he was well-known in Germany and Spain and his songs became popular in England during his later life. Godard was fairly conservative in his tonality and traditional in his formal structures and was especially interested in the lyricism and melodic style of Mendelssohn. Although he was most successful in smaller genres such as chamber music, French language songs, and salon piano pieces, he dabbled in Orientalism in his Symphonie orientale, op. 84 (1883) and composed several operas to mixed success.
Godard’s second Violin Concerto in G minor op. 131 was completed in 1891 and dedicated to his friend, the violinist Johannes Wolff. Like Mendelssohn’s violin concerto, Godard begins the work without an orchestral introduction; indeed the solo violin is the singular carrier of the opening downbeat. Immediately virtuosic in sweeping scalar sixteenth passages, the concerto displays Godard’s intimate knowledge of and his idiomatic writing for the violin, his primary instrument. The contrasting and lyrical second theme explores the variety of orchestral colors in the passing solos in the winds over undulating triplets in the upper strings and pizzicato cello and bass lines. This section gradually returns stringendo to the opening virtuosity before a brief cadenza in which the soloist seems to arrive at B-flat major, although it is undercut by fortissimo G-flat major chords in the orchestra. The subsequent more extensive cadenza reintroduces the expository material while further elaborating upon it before closing in G major.
The second movement, marked Adagio quasi Andante, contrasts the first in lightness of orchestral accompaniment, opening with a solo horn that is answered by the violin. Here, Godard’s vocalesque melodic writing is on full display. The brief interrupting L’istesso tempo heightens the drama and double-stops again show Godard’s idiomatic compositional voice for the solo instrument. The solo horn returns in sublime duet with the violin at the a tempo of Rehearsal L, and the movement closes più lento on a pianissimo.
Triplets again dominate the accompaniment in the last movement, Allegro non troppo. Demanding and energetic wind parts recall the lightness of the incidental music of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream or his Symphony No. 4 (the so-called “Italian”) and the string accompaniment is nearly constantly active. The contrasting cantando at Rehearsal I maintains a pervasive pizzicato accompaniment in the strings while the soloist briefly relaxes. A fast coda, which replaces a cadenza, brings the concerto to a demonstrative and bright close.
The concerto was heard in Chicago under the baton of Theodor Thomas in November 1891 on a program which also included Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550 and Beethoven’s Leonore Overture, No. 2. Of this performance, critic G.H. Wilson commented, “While it is not likely that this concerto will take rank among the great concertos for the king of instruments, it is nevertheless a valuable accession to the literature for the violin… altogther the concerto is a pleasing work, written in the ultra-romantic vein, and one that offers ample technical difficulties and opportunities for brilliant passage work.”1
Amanda Ruppenthal Stein, 2021
1 G.H. Wilson, “Music in Chicago,” Musical Herald of the United States: A monthly review 14, no. 2 (December 1892): 51-52.
For performance material please contact Schott, Mainz.
Read the German preface of the full score > HERE