Monday, April 6, 2009

Nicola Benedetti Performs Sibelius Violin Concerto at the Royal Festival Hall

Hugh Wolff and Nicola Benedetti join forces with the Philharmonia Orchestra

Performances at De Montfort Hall, Leicester; Cheltenham Town Hall and Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall, London - 28, 29 & 30th of April.

All three concerts are of Berlioz Overture, Le carnaval romain, Sibelius Violin Concerto with Nicola Benedetti and Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances. Rachmaninov once said that ‘A composer’s music should express the country of his birth, his love affairs, his religion, the books that have influenced him, the pictures he loves. It should be the sum total of a composer’s experience.’ Rachmaninov knew this was true of the Symphonic Dances, his final major work: at the end of the score he wrote simply: ‘I thank Thee, Lord’.

In 1842, Berlioz began to compose the concert overture Le Carnaval romain in Paris, based on music from Benvenuto Cellini. The work was finished the following year and was premiered shortly after. Nowadays it is among the most popular of his overtures.

The core of Sibelius' oeuvre is his set of seven symphonies. However, his best-known compositions include Finlandia, Valse Triste and the violin concerto. Because the initial performance in 1903 was a disaster, Sibelius withheld this version from publication and made substantial revisions. He deleted much material he felt did not work. The new version premiered in 1905 with Richard Strauss conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Sibelius was not in attendance. Willy Burmester was again asked to be the soloist, but again was unavailable, so the performance went ahead without him, the orchestra's leader Karel Halíř stepping into the soloist's shoes. Burmester was so offended that he refused ever to play the concerto, and Sibelius re-dedicated it to the Hungarian "wunderkind" Ferenc von Vecsey, who was aged only 12 at the time. Vecsey championed the Sibelius concerto, first performing it when he was only 13, although he could not adequately cope with the extraordinary technical demands of the work.

The initial version was noticeably more demanding on the advanced skills of the soloist. It was revived in the early 1990s when Sibelius's heirs permitted one live performance and one recording, on the BIS record label; both were played by Leonidas Kavakos. The revised version still requires a considerably high level of technical facility on the part of the soloist.

Listen to the podcast of Nicola talking about her experience performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto and performing with the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Named BBC’s Young Musician of the Year in 2004, violinist Nicola Benedetti has captivated audiences and critics with her performances, leading the Independent to say of her, “Benedetti has the gift of communication in spades: an ability to make the music seem larger than life by sheer eagerness of musical personality.”

The American conductor Hugh Wolff is among the leading conductors of his generation. He was born in 1953 in Paris of American parents. After graduating from Harvard, Wolff returned on a fellowship to Paris, where he studied conducting with Charles Bruck and composition with Olivier Messiaen. He then continued his studies in Baltimore with Leon Fleisher.

The Philharmonia Orchestra was founded in 1945, primarily as a recording orchestra. It is made up of more than 80 musicians giving around 40 concerts in London and over 60 concerts a year at its Residencies and other venues around the UK, in addition to its touring work all over the world. Its community and education programme brings thousands of young people into contact with the Orchestra. It is the world’s most recorded orchestra with over 1000 releases to its credit.

To book tickets contact the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Tuesday 28 April 2009, 7:30pm, De Montfort Hall, Leicester
Wednesday 29 April, 7.30pm, Cheltenham Town Hall, Cheltenham
Thursday 30 April 2009, 7.30pm, Royal Festival Hall, London
Berlioz Overture, Le carnaval romain
Sibelius Violin Concerto
Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances

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