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Monumental masterworks: Grammy-winning virtuoso James Ehnes joins Pacific Symphony for Beethoven's Violin Concerto plus, Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade"

December 01, 2012

Skyscraping grandeur, sheer beauty and energy to match the excitement of the New Year—Pacific Symphony rings in 2013 with a concert featuring two timeless masterpieces: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Rimsky-Korsakov’s astonishing “Scheherazade.” First, Canadian virtuoso James Ehnes takes the stage for Beethoven’s crowning achievement, the most frequently performed violin concerto in the repertoire. Described by The Guardian as “effusively lyrical” and “hair-raisingly virtuosic,” the Grammy-Award winning violinist surmounts the technical difficulty of the piece on his 1715 “Marsick” Stradivarius, revealing the exquisite lyricism of Beethoven’s work. Then the orchestra, led by Scottish guest conductor and rising star Garry Walker, tells the story of “1,001 Nights” through the music of Rimsky-Korsakov, once called the “master magician of orchestration,” in his “Scheherazade.”

The concert takes place Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 10-12, 2013, at 8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall; a preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25-$102; for more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

Composed in Vienna for one of the best-known virtuosos of the day, Franz Clement, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto epitomizes the classical concerto form. Written in 1806, it exceeds the scale of any violin concerto that preceded it, and begins with the longest introduction preceding the soloist’s entrance.

“It is pretty much a perfect piece of music,” says violinist Ehnes. “The melodic and rhythmic material is among the most memorable and moving in the entire repertoire, and the piece has perfect proportions. Not a note seems out of place. “The overall ‘experience’ of the piece is what I find most attractive,” he continues. “It’s of pretty substantial length, and the journey from start to finish seems to transcend time. I play this piece a lot, and always feel honored to be the medium that brings this amazing music to a live audience. It’s wonderful to think how many people in every audience are hearing it for the first time, or hearing it live for the first time.”

While sharing an epic quality with Beethoven’s grand work, Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” is otherwise unique—full of exoticism and foreign lands, it’s an orchestral palette of color and vibrant textures, featuring cadenzas by multiple sections of the orchestra, including the concertmaster. Through an ominous and chromatic opening enters the voice of a lone violin, representing the voice of Scheherazade, a woman who tells the tales of “The Arabian Nights” and takes the listener on a journey to meet sultans, princes and a voyager named Sinbad.

“The music of ‘Scheherazade’ is like a magic carpet: it can transport you to another world,” said musicologist Paul Serotsky.

Known for his virtuosity and probing musicianship, Ehnes has performed in over 30 countries and on five continents, appearing regularly in the world’s great concert halls and with many of the major orchestras and conductors. He has an extensive discography of over 25 recordings featuring music ranging from J.S Bach to John Adams. He began his violin studies at the age of 4, and at age 9 became a protégé of the noted Canadian violinist Francis Chaplin. He studied with Sally Thomas at the Meadowmount School of Music and from 1993 to 1997 at The Juilliard School, winning the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music upon his graduation. At age 13, he made his orchestral solo debut with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. Since then, he has won numerous awards and prizes. His recordings have been honored with international awards and prizes, including a Grammy, a Gramophone and six Juno Awards.

Named one of the “10 Brightest New Stars for 2007” by BBC Music Magazine, Walker is widely recognized for the intense rapport he creates with musicians and audiences. The young maestro was named permanent guest conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 2003, principal conductor of Paragon Ensemble since 2000, principal guest conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and is a frequent and popular guest at the Edinburgh Festival. He also enjoys a close association with Red Note Ensemble, Scotland’s premiere contemporary music ensemble. Walker’s 2012-13 international engagements include a return to the Auckland Philharmonia, conducting Ehnes in the Elgar Violin Concerto, appearances with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC Symphony at Barbican Hall and debut appearances with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

The appearance of Ehnes is sponsored by Sam B. Ersan. Pacific Symphony’s classical series performances are made possible by the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation, with additional support from American Airlines, The Westin South Coast Plaza, KUSC and PBS SoCal.