BSO performs Walton’s Symphony No. 1 for the first time
Maestro Carlos Kalmar leads the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and violinist Karen Gomyo in Sibelius’ Violin Concerto on Friday, May 27 at 8 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and Saturday, May 28 at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore. Maestro Kalmar will also conduct the first-ever BSO performance of Walton’s Symphony No. 1. As part of the BSO’s year long tribute to Mahler’s 100th anniversary, this concert will also feature What the Wild Flowers Tell Me, arranged by Benjamin Britten.
Sibelius’ Violin Concerto was conceived for the soloist that Sibelius aspired to become, prompting him to write into the solo part some of the most fiendishly difficult musical phrases in the repertoire. The composer began the work in 1902 at the urging of Willy Burmester, the Concertmaster of the Helsinki Philharmonic. He barely completed the work in time for its initial premiere in 1904. Unaccountably, Sibelius selected Viktor Novácek, a less capable violinist than Burmester, for the concerto’s first performance. The work’s exceptionally difficult demands, coupled with Novácek’s inferior skill, resulted in derision from critics at its premiere. Sibelius revised the work extensively and gave the new version to Karl Halir to perform in 1905 with the Berlin Philharmonic, under the direction of Richard Strauss.
The commission for Sir William Walton’s First Symphony came in 1932 from Sir Hamilton Harty, the Music Director of London Symphony Orchestra, at a time when Walton’s previously composed works, such as his flashy oratorio Belshazzar’s Feast and witty song cycle Façade, began to gain attention. Walton’s First Symphony had a long gestation of over three years, and took a serious toll on Walton’s personal life. Its eventual premiere in 1935 with the London Symphony Orchestra was a huge success and solidified Walton’s reputation as a symphonic composer.