Symphony Season Opener “Truly Special”
When JoAnn Falletta calls a soloist “brilliant,” when Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s long time Music Director says that the VSO audience can expect “a truly special event,” it’s truly time to sit up and take notice.
The soloist is violin star Midori, the event the Symphony’s season opening performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto September 20-22.
Falletta describes the concerto as “an extraordinarily difficult piece to play.” She comments, “[Brahms] disguises the difficulty. It’s about this mighty drama that unfolds between the violin and the orchestra. [It presents] extraordinary challenges for the instrument that the audience does not realize.”
More formally titled Violin Concerto in D major, Opus 77, it’s generally called just “The Brahms Violin Concerto,” being the only such violin piece that he wrote. (Johannes Brahms is one of the oft-mentioned “Three Bs” of classical music. Beethoven and Bach are the other two, which gives one a fair idea of how professional musicians regard him.) The concerto was written for, and in collaboration with, his childhood and life-long friend, the violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim.
“I’ve been wanting to do the Brahms with her in Virginia,” says Falletta, who has worked with Midori elsewhere on that composition, and on other pieces.
“I really love working with her,” says Mr. Falletta, calling the violinist “Very intense person [who] brings a special sort of passion to the Brahms,” and “a gifted, mature artist,” with whom it is “a real treat” to perform.
Midori “takes everything she does very seriously … [she is] the consummate professional … profoundly connected to the music, and the audiences sees that as well.”
“Having done the Brahms with her,” says Falletta, “I can tell you it is something very rare. She has wrapped herself around the Brahms, [and] plays with such strength and vividness that it almost seems that there is a drama being enacted on the stage.”
Curtain raiser for this opening night concert is the Overture to Colas Breugnon, Opus 24, by Soviet composer Dmitri Kabalevsky. It’s a five minute piece from an opera about a rebellious artist, which somehow slipped under the Stalinist radar that was sweeping the Russian artistic landscape when the work premiered in 1938.
Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet did not fare so well, having caught unfavorable attention from Stalin himself, for its non-traditional, happy ending, and being initially rejected, Falletta says, by both the Kirov and Bolshoi companies.
Since Prokofiev completed the first version in 1935, the music has been heard and and the ballet seen in a variety of forms. Falletta has “drawn from two different [orchestral] suites,” which the composer adapted from his own ballet score, selections for the second piece of the concert.
Midori and Brahms, “brilliant” and “gifted” and filled with that “special passion for … this mighty drama that unfolds between the violin and the orchestra,” are the grand finale.
In Falletta’s words, “People should understand that they are seeing something like a force of nature when Midori plays.”
Virginia Symphony Orchestra
Opening Night with Midori
September 20, Ferguson Center for the Arts, Newport News
September 21, Chrysler Hall, Norfolk
September 22, Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia Beach