“A greater honour than recording these four concertos is hardly possible,” says Frank Peter Zimmermann in the film accompanying the Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings edition. The recordings of the violin concertos by Beethoven, Berg and Bartók are snapshots of a long-standing and fruitful artistic collaboration between the exceptional violinist and the Berliner Philharmoniker.
Frank Peter Zimmermann approaches Béla Bartók’s richly detailed music with the greatest respect, as he tells us. It was only relatively late in his artistic career that he began the time-consuming study of the two violin concertos. Today they are an integral part of his repertoire. In 2016, Frank Peter Zimmermann recorded both violin concertos with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Alan Gilbert, with whom he has had a close friendship for over twenty years – the second in a Philharmoniker concert, the first in a separate recording session at the Philharmonie Berlin.
Bartók wrote his First Violin Concerto in 1908 as a musical declaration of love to the Hungarian violinist Stefi Geyer. In the ascending sequence of notes at the beginning, which also appears in other works by Bartók from this period, the composer characterises the dedicatee, as he himself stated. Bartók wrote his Violin Concerto full of heart and soul: it is lyrical, filled with the sensuousness of a late Romantic musical language. The composer’s disappointment that Stefi Geyer not only ended their brief relationship but also never played his violin concerto in public weighed all the more heavily – although she kept the manuscript until her death. Bartók never heard the work during his lifetime. It was not until the 1950s that the manuscript from Stefi Geyer’s estate was published and the violin concerto premiered in Basel.