Events and Concerts

St John's, Totnes St Peter's, Shaldon

Rossini: Overture to 'The Barber of Seville'

Beethoven: Violin Concerto (Ofer Falk - Violin)

Tchaikovsky: Symphony no 6 (Pathetique)

TSO Concert Ticket
Adult Full 08-06-2024

Ofer Falk

Ofer Falk

TSO welcomes back the wonderful Ofer Falk as soloist in the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Ofer has performed on a number of occasions with the TSO over the past few years, always to great acclaim.

Born in Israel in 1967, Ofer Falk studied with the legendary pedagogue Ilona Feher in Tel-Aviv and later with Professor Dora Schwarzberg in Vienna.

Ofer has won numerous prizes in international competitions including the Henryk Szerying special prize (1993) and top prizes in the Tchaikovsky 10th International Competition in Moscow (1994) and Montreal International Violin Competition (1995).

Ofer made his debut performance as soloist with the English Chamber Orchestra in February 2003 and was immediately re-invited for subsequent performances. Other UK venues at which Ofer has performed concerti include The Barbican, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Saint Martin in the Fields and the Purcell Room.

Internationally, his performances have been broadcast on both radio and television including BBC Radio 3, German Radio-Berlin, Israeli Radio and Television, Russian State Radio and Television, Canadian Radio (CBC).

Ofer is an accomplished chamber musician. He was founder member and leader of the Schidlof Quartet, (1994-2001) the Falk Quartet (2001-2003), and since 2007, has been leading the Allegri String Quartet, performing with artists such as Murray Perahia and Jack Brymer. He has recorded three CDs with the Schidlof Quartet (Linn Records) one with the Falk Quartet and three with the Allegri Quartet.

Ofer is a professor of Violin at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and at Trinity College of Music in London.

Ofer plays on a 1661 violin by Nicolò Amati of Cremona.

Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Major op. 61

Soloist: Ofer Falk

Five (4 + 1) equal strokes of the timpani open Beethoven’s violin concerto.

5 Strokes

Out of this simple motif a whole movement of astonishing beauty emerges, slowly revealing itself in all its grandeur as it moves through its sonata form structure.

That (sonata form) is probably the only nod to convention in the whole first movement. With Beethoven, one can always be sure that he will push the boundaries of what was currently expected and acceptable in terms of structure, harmony and thematic development. The first two movements of this concerto are no different. Only the third movement somewhat fulfils expectations in that it is a Rondo with clearly delineated returns of the main theme. A rondo is a form in which the main idea (A) is repeated numerous times, but between each repetition a new idea is inserted. (B, C, D, E, etc.)

But - back to the beginning and the first movement.

That timpani motif of crotchets appears throughout the movement. For example, in the strings very near the beginning:


Or in the horns, trumpets and timpani accompanying the second theme:

Horns and Trumpets

Or in the bassoons in the development section:


These are only a very few examples. If you look through the score, you will be astonished at how embedded this motif is everywhere. It is like a bit of DNA that goes around the movement replicating itself, each time a little differently as it adapts to its musical environment.

This idea of using a motif to provide the glue that binds and unifies the music into a coherent structure is one of Beethoven’s signature contributions, and appears in many of his works. (e.g. 5th symphony). After Schumann and Brahms (who both made extensive use of the technique), the idea culminates in the Leitmotifs in Wagner’s later operas and the single movement tone poems of Richard Strauss.

The movement itself follows the convention of opening orchestral tutti which presents the main themes, followed by the entry of the soloist who interacts with these opening themes in different ways.

However, the role that Beethoven chooses for the soloist is improvisatory at its core. Rather than simply repeat the themes from the opening tutti, the violin here soars up, leaps about and provides a florid embellishment while the orchestra presents the themes below, but in a reduced version, so as not to overwhelm the violin.

Solo violin

There is an extensive development section, including a very beautiful middle section in G minor involving horns, bassoons and a hushed string section as well as the solo violin.

G Minor

Following the recapitulation and soloist’s cadenza, there is a typically Beethoven coda – i.e. rather than a perfunctory cadential ending to the piece, it is more extended and references material from the movement’s exposition. Here, the coda starts off with a very quiet and heartfelt rendition of the main theme – this pp dynamic is held until the last few bars when the tension finally explodes into the final closing chords.

This movement excels at creating moments of magic – hushed orchestral accompaniments, loud and vibrant tuttis, wonderful and multicoloured orchestration. Amazingly beautiful and exciting.

The second movement continues with the improvisatory theme, but it is a more intimate setting – no flute, oboes, trumpets or timpani. It invites members of the orchestra to join in the improvisatory-like dialogue – most prominent are the clarinet and bassoon who both have extensive solos which respond and intertwine with the solo violin. Horns make a few important interventions and the strings contribute hushed (muted) pad textures to evoke an atmosphere of deep reverence.

2nd movement

Beethoven quite often uses the middle, slow movement in a concerto (also in chamber music) as a quasi interlude which joins the first and third movement together. That is the case here, despite the length of the movement – the little cadenza at the end which leads straight into the 3rd movement gives extra weight to this idea.

The third movement is, as mentioned above, a Rondo. A happy, lively and exhilarating end to a real masterpiece.

Overall and perhaps most importantly – pay attention throughout to the dialogue between the solo violin and the orchestra. That dialogue and how it manifests itself is at the core of the concerto form and Beethoven absolutely excels at revealing every possible detail of the relationship between the two.

Richard Gonski

May 2024