Mendelssohn Violin Concerto
Friday, July 21, 2017 @ 7:30 p.m.
Brevard Music Center Orchestra
Neil Thomson, conductor
Mayuko Kamio, violin
Ticket holders may attend a free Pre-Concert Talk in Thomas Hall, which begins one hour before the performance.
LIADOV Eight Russian Folksongs, Op. 58
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto
RACHMANINOFF Symphonic Dances
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Anatol Liadov (1855-1914)
Eight Russian Folk Songs, Op. 58
Liadov’s interest in Russian folk music turned into more than a hobby, when he received a grant from the Imperial Geographical Society to study various musical traditions. He took field trips to several districts to collect different styles. The project paid off compositionally in 1906, when Liadov composed his Eight Russian Folk Songs. Each song is treated differently in ornate and subtle orchestral settings, showcasing Liadov’s abilities as master orchestrator, following in the footsteps of Rimsky-Korsakov.
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64
Premiered on March 13, 1845, in Leipzig conducted by Niels Gade with Ferdinand David as soloist.
The legendary 19th-century violinist Joseph Joachim told his guests at his 75th birthday party that, “the Germans have four violin concertos. The greatest, most uncompromising is Beethoven's. The one by Brahms vies with it in seriousness. The richest, the most seductive, was written by Max Bruch. But the most inward, the heart's jewel, is Mendelssohn's.” What makes Mendelssohn’s concerto so expressive, beautiful, and intrinsically communicative in a way that it touches one’s soul?
It seems that behind every great concerto is a great soloist, and Mendelssohn’s violin concerto is no exception. The piece was written for the composer’s friend, Ferdinand David, with whom he had been friends since their youth in Berlin. When Mendelssohn tried to build the reputation of the Leipzig orchestra, he convinced David to be the new concertmaster, a post that he would hold for 37 years. While the violin concerto is technically an expertly written piece that is perfectly suited to the violin—thanks to David’s input— the true appeal for performers and listeners around the globe is found in the “violin-centric” conception of the whole work, and it seems that their friendship might have more to do with it than David’s expert advice. Instead of the standard orchestral introduction of the main musical material, Mendelssohn turns the traditional structure literally inside out and has the violinist present the main theme first instead of the orchestra. As a result, the theme appears much more intimate and “three-dimensional,” allowing the orchestra then to restate the theme, thus creating a natural, structural crescendo. The soloist once again plays the central role at the most climactic moment of the movement—the return to the main theme in the main key; Mendelssohn decided to move the cadenza up from the end of the movement to fulfill his “violin-centric” vision for this concerto.
The second movement continues seamlessly without a break with a Mendelssohnian Song Without Words, allowing the soloist to intimate the rich lyrical content of this ternary movement. Mendelssohn continues the complete integration of all three movements as one organic unit by linking the return of the tonal center from C back to E (now major) in a written-out transition. The last movement glistens as a fleet-footed scherzo in Mendelssohn’s trademark capricious style, releasing all the energy and inner tension created by the first two movements.
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Symphonic Dances, Op. 45
Premiered on January 3, 1941, in Philadelphia conducted by Eugene Ormandy.
The Symphonic Dances mark the end of Rachmaninoff’s successful career as pianist, composer, and conductor, and their delayed success is indicative of his struggle for respect as composer. While Rachmaninoff’s position as one of the greatest pianists of all time was never in doubt, some of his compositions had been viewed as outdated—especially compared to Stravinsky and Schoenberg. After a lukewarm reception of his Third Symphony in 1936, Rachmaninoff stopped composing for three years. But during the summer of 1940, while preparing for an extended concert tour, Rachmaninoff felt the need to compose again. By this time, he had settled in Long Island after the outbreak of World War II. His new neighbors included Vladimir and Wanda Horowitz, and choreographer Michel Fokine, who had produced a popular ballet of Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Variations. Presumably encouraged by the ballet’s success, the composer started writing Fantastic Dances, consisting of “Midday,” “Twilight,” and “Midnight.” As the work progressed, Rachmaninoff settled on the more generic Symphonic Dances and dropped the descriptors. Unfortunately, Fokine’s death in 1942 ended a possible ballet collaboration. While the Philadelphia premiere was well received, a second performance in New York was unsuccessful. In the years since, the Symphonic Dances have not only been standard repertoire, they have become a favorite of both performers and audiences. Unfortunately, Rachmaninoff did not live to enjoy their tremendous success.
Compositionally, this work is more than a summation of his career, for in it the composer also seeks redemption. The first dance recycles material from his unpublished First Symphony, the greatest failure of his career. Because Rachmaninoff had destroyed all materials of the work, the quotation was intended for his ears only. Since his death, however, materials of the First Symphony resurfaced, giving us the privilege of access to this redemptive moment. At the heart of this exciting opening movement is arguably the greatest saxophone solo in symphonic literature. Rachmaninoff had consulted Broadway orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett about the use of the saxophone. The second dance is an extremely edgy waltz—vacillating between nostalgia and sarcasm. This contrapuntally and rhythmically complex movement showcases his perfect sense of timing—a skill he had honed as performer. The slow introduction of the last dance creates a sense of drama that pervades the whole movement. The toll of the bells hints at the composer’s use of chant material. Rachmaninoff incorporates three sacred sources: a chant from the Russian Orthodox liturgy, the Dies irae from the Mass of the Dead, and a self-quotation, taken from his All-Night Vigil (marked in the autograph score with the word “Alleluia”). Perhaps realizing the importance of this work not only as his last but one of his most successful, he wrote at the end of the autograph, “I thank thee, Lord.”
- Siegwart Reichwald
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Neil Thompson, conductor
In his second season as Principal Conductor and Musical Director of the recently founded Orquestra Filarmonica de Goias in Brazil, Neil Thomson is one of the most widely respected and versatile British conductors of his generation. Born in 1966 he studied with Norman Del Mar at the Royal College of Music, and later at Tanglewood with Leonard Bernstein and Kurt Sanderling. He has conducted and recorded with both the London Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia and in recent years has worked with the London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, Halle, Royal Scottish National, and Royal Philharmonic Concert orchestras in the UK, Tokyo Philharmonic in Japan, Aarhus Symphony in Denmark, the RTE Concert Orchestra in Dublin, the WDR Orchestra in Cologne and orchestras in Israel, Portugal, Italy, Romania, Mexico, Oman, and Lithuania.
From 1992 until 2006 Mr. Thomson was Head of Conducting at the Royal College of Music. The youngest ever incumbent of this post, he has established an enviable reputation as an orchestral trainer. His skills as a natural communicator have enhanced an already growing reputation as a teacher throughout Europe. He has twice given EU-sponsored master classes in Lithuania and has been a Guest Professor at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, the Krakow Academy of Music, and the Conservatoire ‘Arrigo Boito’ in Parma. He has been on the jury of the Lorin Maazel Conducting Competition, the Eduardo Mata Conducting Competition in Mexico City, and the Prokofiev Conducting Competition in St Petersburg.
Mr. Thomson has performed with many distinguished soloists including Sir James Galway, Dame Moura Lympany, Sir Thomas Allen, Dame Felicity Lott, Philip Langridge, Stephen Hough, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Steven Isserlis, Julian Lloyd Webber, and Natalie Clein. Recordings include a CD of contemporary American violin concertos with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. He has made a specialty of conducting films live to screen including performances with the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera at the Barbican and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall.
Mayuko Kamio, violin
Japanese violinist Mayuko Kamio, gold medalist of the 2007 International Tchaikovsky Competition, is widely praised for her luxurious silken tone, long expressive phrasing and virtuoso techniques. The New York Times has called Ms. Kamio an "exciting young musician" and "a radiant talent." Ms. Kamio made her concerto debut in Tokyo at the age of ten under the baton of Charles Dutoit, in a concert broadcast on NHK television. Since then, she has appeared as soloist with the Boston Pops conducted by Keith Lockhart, the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich with Mstislav Rostropovich, and the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta. Engagements in the 2016-17 Season included orchestra appearances with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Nihon Philharmonic, Symphony Silicon Valley. Columbus Symphony (GA), Guiyang Symphony Orchestra, and Saginaw Bay Symphony, as well as recitals with Chamber Music San Francisco, Chamber on the Mountain, and Merkin Hall in New York City.
She has toured with the National Philharmonic of Russia conducted by Vladimir Spivakov, the Budapest Festival Orchestra under Ivan Fischer, the Munich Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, the Prague Philharmonic, the BBC Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, the Oviedo Symphony Orchestra of Spain; and appeared in Japan as soloist with the Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, NHK, Osaka, Sapporo, and Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestras; and the Japan, Tokyo, and Tokyo City Philharmonics.
Ms. Kamio was winner of the 1998 Menuhin International Violin Competition, first prize winner in the 2000 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, and the 2004 Monte Carlo Violin Masters Competition. Ms. Kamio was born in Osaka, Japan in 1986, and began to play the violin at the age of four. She studied in the U.S. with Dorothy DeLay and Masao Kawasaki, and later completed Artist's Diploma studies at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Zurich, where she worked with Zakhar Bron. Ms. Kamio received a grant from the Bagby Foundation for the Musical Arts, and is a recipient of the prestigious Idemitsu Music Award. Mayuko Kamio plays on the 1735 "Sennhauser" made by Joseph Guarneri del Gesu, kindly offered by the Strad Society in Chicago.