This Home Delivery is a delightful program of music from a pair of concerts from the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons. On February 16, 2017, we heard how two composers, Elgar and Strauss, differently gave musical tribute to the beauty and culture of Italy; and from January 11, 2018, our own Associate Concertmaster Jessica Linnebach was in the spotlight.
When Bartók’s good friend, violinist Zoltán Székely, asked for a concerto, there was friendly debate to its structure: Székely wanted a more typical three-movement style, whereas Bartók wanted to write a “theme and variations”. In the end, Bartók managed to satisfy both, and the result is an electrifying work filled with Hungarian folk melodies. Listen as Jessica Linnebach shines in this fiendishly difficult and intense Concerto, as her sound soars above a lush orchestra, deftly led by brilliant American guest conductor, Karina Canellakis.
Elgar’s In the South, “Alassio” was inspired by a trip to the Italian Riviera in 1903. While Elgar himself considered this piece an overture, at 20 minutes long, it’s more aptly a one-movement symphony. Written in a true late Romantic style, it is energetic, pastoral, and vividly colourful. Listen for the beautiful viola solo, which is then taken up by solo horn, representing his own idea of an Italian folk song, in what Elgar called a “canto popolare”.
When Strauss was 22, he spent an extended vacation in Italy, where he immersed himself in Italian culture and architecture, and in the beauty of the countryside. So taken by it all, he felt compelled to put his feelings into music. The resulting Aus Italien, first performed in 1887, was a four-movement work which Strauss called a “symphonic fantasy”, and it was the first of his many expressions of programmatic music. It is, by turns, sunny and idyllic, iridescently delicate and expressive, and wildly exuberant. While Strauss presumed it was a traditional Neapolitan folk song, this popular Italian song was actually composed in 1880 to commemorate the first funicular cable car up to Mt. Vesuvius.
I’m so thrilled that my January 2018 performance of Bartók’s Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra is being included as part of this week’s NACO Home Delivery. It remains one of the most meaningful and rewarding musical experiences of my life; to play a concerto I love with every part of my being, with my own orchestra that I’ve had the privilege of being a part of for 18 years.
I first discovered this piece when I was 16. It was a time of tremendous upheaval in my life – I was navigating being a teenager all while going to the Curtis Institute of Music and living alone in Philadelphia, and learning to deal with the fact that my parents were going through a divorce.
From the very first time I heard a recording of this piece, I was completely captivated. I felt that all of the intense emotions I was feeling inside were being understood and expressed in a way that I intuitively understood. The music felt soulful, angry, confused, yet somehow tender and loving. It was all of those intense emotions I was feeling in one piece of music! I could yell, cry, laugh, and love through this piece and completely be myself.
I remember when I first started learning the piece, I practiced it in a different way from anything else before. Normally, I would have listened to historical recordings of my favourite violinists playing all of the famous violin concertos, and then try to emulate what I had heard, not REALLY learning the piece. But this time, it was different. I needed to take charge…to be in control of something in my life, and I dissected the piece from the very beginning, in the end feeling much more connected to the music, like it was mine.
Without delving into the teenage soul any further, it was also the piece that helped me discover the many different colours, sounds and textures that the violin and orchestra could make together in a form like chamber music; everyone reacting to each other and communicating in a profoundly intimate way.