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BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D major, op. 61
SARAH KIRKLAND SNIDER: Forward Into Light
RAVEL: Valses nobles et sentimentales
RAVEL: La valse
On the heels of two recitals of Beethoven Violin Sonatas, James Ehnes teams up with the dynamic conductor Hugh Wolff for Beethoven’s only Violin Concerto. The piece has been a mainstay of the violinist’s repertoire since he first heard it as a teenager in his hometown of Manitoba. He describes it as “an incredibly uplifting and optimistic piece of music—one that makes you feel good about mankind.” It may be hard believe that this noble and inspiring work didn’t immediately catch on with audiences. That Beethoven completed the score only two days before the premiere, causing the soloist to sight read his part, undoubtedly had something to do with it. It took the twelve-year-old violinist Joseph Joachim (for whom Brahms later wrote his Violin Concerto) in a performance conducted by Felix Mendelssohn to make it the popular success it is today.
The music of Sarah Kirkland Snider has been saluted as “rapturous” by The New York Times and “poignant, deeply personal” by the New Yorker. Forward Into Light was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and premiered in June.
The concert’s second half showcases two Ravel works based on waltzes. In Valses nobles et sentimentales, he intended to “compose a chain of waltzes in the style of Schubert.” He wrote the piece for piano, but orchestrated it in 1912 for performance as a ballet. According to Ravel’s conception, the scene takes place in Paris, about 1820, at the home of a courtesan. Flower vases are placed on tables on the stage. The story concerns the fickle courtesan and two rival suitors. Love, hope, and rejection are symbolized by the flowers which the dancers exchange throughout the ballet.
La Valse is both a glorification and deconstruction of the Viennese waltz. As early as 1906, Ravel wanted to write a work in tribute to Johann Strauss Jr. The idea materialized in 1914 as La Valse. The composer described it as “a sort of apotheosis of the Viennese waltz, mingled with, in my mind, the impression of a fantastic, fatal whirling.” Ravel was embittered by World War I, and in this piece he captures both the nostalgia over a lost civilization and the chaos of war. You can almost hear the bombs exploding during the cataclysmic climax./p>
Hear Beethoven virtuoso James Ehnes and the scintillating orchestral colors of Snider and Ravel on this stirring program.