The focus of our March Masterworks concert shall be twofold: a send-off for our departing concertmaster, Gabe Lefkowitz, and a nod towards the cultural celebration that is St. Patrick's Day. Gabe will be closing the program out with Brahms' Violin Concerto, while the music of Peter Maxwell Davies and Percy Grainger bring on the Irish flavor. “Hidden treasures” by Dvorak and Sibelius will fill out the program.
I have somehow managed to have never performed music of Peter Maxwell Davies, an English composer who, sadly, passed since the work was programmed in November of 2015. The work we are playing, his An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise, is a colorful work with a clever subplot. Themes of bagpipe-y, Celtic character are tossed around by various instruments in the orchestra- flute, clarinet, horn and trumpet- but a surprise entrance by a piper near the end serves to affirm the efforts of the instrumentalists to “sound Celtic.” Well, I guess it's not so much of a surprise now, but it's an amusing work with a big violin (fiddle) solo that careens and careers as would a wedding fiddler who had had a wee bit too much Glenmorangie 18. That solo will be handled by concertmaster candidate finalist William Shaub, who comes to us from Houston. Here is a link to a very amusing video of a performance of the work, with an introduction by the composer himself.
Dvorak's Scherzo Capriccioso is a tone poem written in the period between his 6th symphony (which we performed just a couple months ago) and his 7th. There are gorgeous little solo passages for flute and harp, and the bouncy, waltzy nature of the work recalls Dvorak's own Slavonic Dances and the gracious, sweeping waltzes of Tchaikovsky. Also on the program is Sibelius' Spring Song, a decidedly serene work which is a departure from Sibelius' usual musical style, which ranges from stormy to mercurial.
Gabe Lefkowitz is working hard these days, amid a 30-day schedule that sees him performing two concertos in Knoxville and one in Ocala, FL, along with the usual array of concertmaster duties that the Louisville Orchestra dishes onto his plate. His two “Knoxville concerti” will be the Chausson Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet at the KMA next week, and Brahms' Violin Concerto this week with the full orchestra. The Brahms is one of the “Big Four” D-major violin concertos that dominate orchestra programming, the others being by Sibelius (played just last month!), Beethoven and Tchaikovsky (played by Gabe with us a couple years ago).
My first broach with the Brahms came in college, when I played in the Hartford Symphony under the baton of Arthur Winograd. Our soloist in that performance was none other than Itzhak Perlman in a gala concert opening the 1983-84 season. It was just thrilling to share the stage with Perlman. Everyone agreed that it was fine Brahms, but that there was just a little something missing. Turns out that a couple days after that concert, Perlman was admitted to a New York hospital with a kidney infection! He'd had to cancel an engagement with the New York Philharmonic on account of his ailment. I learned a lesson in dedication that day. Gabe does not have a kidney infection, but his infectious enthusiasm for all things violin will be in evidence this Thursday and Friday at the Tennessee Theatre at 7:30. Tickets available at the door or online here.
PLEASE NOTE that there will be a St. Patrick's Day parade downtown on Friday starting at 7:00, and Regal Cinemas will be opening the new Beauty and the Beast film that night, so parking may be a real donnybrook if you don't allow a little extra time.