Monday, January 26, 2009

Ferdinand David

Ferdinand David was a German violinist, teacher, and composer born on January 20, 1810 (Beethoven was 40 years old.) While still very young, he studied with Louis Spohr among other teachers. In 1826 (at age 16), he joined the Royal Theatre Orchestra in Berlin. In 1829 he toured as first violinist with a string quartet whose name I do not know. In 1835 (at age 25), he became concertmaster of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig and professor of violin at the Leipzig Conservatory in 1843. He is best remembered for having played the premiere of Felix Mendelssohn’s violin concerto in e minor, quite possibly the most popular violin concerto ever written. David thus became the most famous concertmaster in history.* He also made several suggestions which Mendelssohn incorporated into the final revision. English violinist Daniel Hope plays (and has recorded) Mendelssohn's original version which to my ears sounds a little archaic. Even if just a few notes here and there are different, the version we are familiar with is considerably more Romantic in style. I think Mendelssohn owes Ferdinand David a debt of gratitude. David wrote two symphonies, five violin concertos, an opera, and an assortment of other works which nobody plays today, except for his trombone concerto. He also edited the works of other composers, most notably the Partitas for solo violin of J.S. Bach and the Chaconne by Tomaso Vitali. David died on July 19, 1873, at age 63. Mendelssohn had been dead for 26 years. 
*only Steven Staryk and Mischa Mischakoff rival him in that arena. 

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