When did virtuosos stop playing their own concertos?

In the nineteenth century, it was common for virtuosos to also compose works for themselves to play. At the beginning of the twentieth century, it was less common, but there are still plenty of impressive examples. Pianist Eugen d’Albert not only composed for himself but also wrote operas and other works in almost every genre. Violinist Henri Marteau championed new violin concertos, including his own. Ernst von Dohnányi wrote piano works that he played, but also a lot of other music for which he is better known. Violinists Karl Klingler and Bernhard Dessau performed their concertos with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1908 and 1916, respectively. The last Philharmonic concerts I have found to feature the composer as soloist were in the 1930s, with one last concert occurring in 1943:

  • 31.3.1930 Paul Hindemith premiered his own Concerto for Viola op. 36 no. 4
  • 8.12.1930 Sergei Rachmaninoff 4th piano concerto, Bruno Walter conducting
  • 3.11.1936 Jean Françaix, Piano Concerto No. 2, (premiere)
  • 6.12.1937 Winfried Wolf , Piano Concerto, (premiere)
  • 11.3.1943 Hans Brehme, Piano Concerto (first performance)

With regard to the 3-concerto concerts of the previous post: These also petered out during World War II. There were a few two-concerto concerts after the War, including Yehudi Menuhin playing the Mendelssohn and Bartok concertos on a concert on 29.6.1948. But that seems to have been the last of the multiple concerto concerts.

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4 comments

  1. Interesting observation! I guess if we were to expand it into composers performing their works (not just concertos), we might see a return of composer-performers with the likes of Steve Reich. I know double bassists are a weird lot, but Edgar Meyer actually plays his concerto and double concerto quite frequently, but he is definitely an exception rather than a norm! It’s funny that you can actually pinpoint when composing and performing became compartmentalized….

    1. Yes, there are a few throwbacks around today–I can think of pianist Fazil Say and clarinetist Jörg Widmann who play their own works.

  2. Very interesting. Is your list limited to Berlin performances? I was wondering about Bartok performing his 2nd piano concerto.

    1. Yes, this is just Berlin Philharmonic performances. The Bartok 2nd Piano Concerto was first performed there by Géza Anda on January 6, 1952.

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