As a young man, Sibelius dreamed – not just figuratively but literally – of becoming an internationally acclaimed violin virtuoso. Sibelius’s best mature compositions, however, are free of mere showmanship and his Violin Concerto might be the composer’s attempt to reconcile the world of the flashy virtuoso with that of the brooding, Nordic ascetic. Whether this reconciliation occurred or not is a matter of opinion, but the reservations of music critics (including Joseph Joachim) have not prevented the work from becoming one of the most popular violin concertos.
Sibelius may have written only one violin concerto, but he wrote other music for solo violin accompanied by orchestra. In 1917, he composed six Humoresques. They were premiered together on 24 November 1919, with soloist Paul Cherkassky, and Sibelius himself conducting the Helsinki City Orchestra. In all six, the orchestral forces required are relatively small; the middle two call for strings alone. Sibelius claimed that the Humoresques convey ‘the anguish of existence, fitfully lit up by the sun’.
Although noted for his fearless and thrilling performances of music by Paganini for Deutsche Grammophon, Salvatore Accardo, who celebrates his 75th birthday in October 2016, also recorded extensively for Philips in the 1970s and 80s. His repertoire ranged from Baroque music through to 19th and 20th concertos, including the complete music for violin and orchestra by Bruch, and concertos by Brahms and Mendelssohn.
“I can’t think of many artists who have more successfully conveyed the innocence as well as the magic of the opening bars. […] The slow movement has warmth and its textures a glowing, lambent quality. […] Throughout the work, the brass have exactly the right kind of power and sonority. The finale is played with effortless brilliance by the soloist. […] Accardo is the first to record all six Humoresques as a fill-up to the concerto and he and Sir Colin Davis bring to them a fine sense of atmosphere and rapture. […] A superb record.” Gramophone
“this set of six miniatures [Humoresques] would probably tempt me to lay out the whole price of the disc by themselves. They are small, compact works of very concentrated content. One could almost call them musical K-rations except that they bring far more satisfaction than K-rations possibly could. At first they may appear to be mere trifles, but do not be deceived. They are virtual case studies in virtuoso violin technique but with some musical substance mixed in. Accardo provides a ravishingly beautiful performance. Like the Concerto, these are sometimes taken more slowly in tempo than normal, but the pulse never falters and new beauties are revealed.” Fanfare