Even professional musicians haven’t heard of him. But Russian violinist and composer Julius Conus did exist, and in 1896 he wrote a Violin Concerto in E minor. Years later, Jascha Heifetz recorded the piece, in which form it reached the ears of a Norwegian boy who would grow up to become the concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Now David Coucheron is excited to perform the Conus Violin Concerto for the first time himself March 7 and 9 with his colleagues in Atlanta. He spoke with GPB’s Sarah Zaslaw about this obscure but “surprisingly beautiful” work.
On the Conus concerto
“That’s the normal reaction I get from people: ‘What is this concerto?’ It’s a beautiful Romantic violin concerto, and it’s sad it’s not played more often, but I’m doing my bit here to try to make it more popular. It’s just beautiful. It’s surprisingly beautiful! Like, I’m practicing it and I can’t believe how wonderful this piece is. I’m just sad he didn’t write more stuff. He’s kind of a one-hit wonder.”
On the Rachmaninoff connection
“He was close friends with [Russian composer and pianist Sergei] Rachmaninoff, and I picture that if Rachmaninoff ever did write a violin concerto, it would be a little bit like this. As a matter of fact, Conus’s son was married to Rachmaninoff’s daughter, so there was really a great linkage there.”
On Coucheron’s immigrant status
“I have a green card. Norway doesn’t allow dual citizenship. So if I were to ask for citizenship in this country, I would have to surrender my Norwegian citizenship, which I am not ready to do.”
David Coucheron on starting violin at age three