Exciting, young violinist Alexandra Conunova makes her U.S. debut this weekend in her only scheduled 2017 engagement in this country, performing Jean Sibelius' Violin Concerto in d with ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.
After a slow start in terms of popularity, this concerto took off when Jascha Heifitz recorded it in the 1930s. I have to wonder if one of the reasons it took a while to catch on was the composer's attitude toward the very musicians for which it was written: virtuoso violinists. In one well-known piece of advice for composition students, Sibelius said they needed to be "aware of the audience's patience (and the stupidity of many soloists), avoiding long, purely orchestral passages."
Here, Conunova plays the finale to the Sibelius piece with the Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev at the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2015.
The violinist is certainly center stage throughout this concerto. Once Conunova gets a few bars in, she has to play both artist and athlete, performing nearly nonstop for the next 30 minutes.
ProMusica's program for the weekend is wonderful. While Edvard Grieg is best known for his Peer Gynt suites and Piano Concerto in a, he wrote numerous pieces for solo piano and many for voice. Though his output for orchestra is comparatively small, there are some real gems. ProMusica will play one of Grieg's 2 Elegiac Melodies, for string orchestra, Op.34, which he called "Last Spring."
Composer Anton Webern adds a 20th-century edge to a set of German Dances by Schubert, and one of the absolute pillars of the symphonic world, Felix Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 5, "The Reformation," caps off the evening. It is an amazing piece heard in any setting, but is best experienced live!