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Violinist Cho-Liang Lin Shines as He Performs Mozart’s Masterful Violin Concerto No. 4, then Leads the Majestic “Haffner” Symphony, Plus Diverse Works by Dvořák, Wagner
Orange County, Calif. — December 22, 2015
Lauded the world over for his eloquent playing and superb musicianship, Taiwanese-American violinist Cho-Liang Lin joins Pacific Symphony to kick off the New Year by serving as both conductor and featured soloist for a superb program that includes both Mozart’s brilliantly figured Violin Concerto No. 4 and his grand and festive “Haffner” Symphony, considered one of his great symphonic achievements. The Dallas Morning News wrote of Lin: “...there is truth and beauty to his playing. He radiates integrity and affection,” while the Los Angeles Times calls the violinist “a rare combination of virtuosity and humanity.” Also on the program are Wagner’s peaceful and lyrical “Siegfried Idyll” and Dvořák’s resplendent musical gem, Romance in F Minor. The concert takes place Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 7-9, 2016, at 8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tickets range from $25-$110. A preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m.
Also, Sunday Casual Connections takes place Jan. 10, at 3 p.m., offering the return of Lin as he leads a further exploration of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4, his “Haffner” Symphony and Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll.” For more information or to purchase tickets, please call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
Opening the concert is Mozart’s Fourth Violin Concerto, with a sunny lyricism (a quality found in all five of Mozart’s violin concertos) that demonstrates the influence of the composer’s travels with his father in Italy. Born in Salzburg, Mozart was still a teenager in the service of the court orchestra when he composed this concerto. Best known for his skill as a pianist, Mozart was also a violinist of considerable talent, and each of his five violin concertos (a cornerstone of the violin repertoire) seem to have been originally composed for his own use. But when Mozart gave up his position with the court orchestra and was replaced by another violinist (Antonio Brunetti), he took his concertos with him to revise and update. As a result, Mozart made his last two violin concertos technically demanding; his Fourth Violin Concerto is widely considered to be the most scintillating of the five. When asked to bring a concerto to an audition, this is the one most frequently selected by aspiring violinists.
Mozart’s piece is perfection when performed by Lin, of whom The Boston Globe has said: “His playing was sunny, assured and elegant. His intonation is superb, his musical instincts both naturally appealing and highly cultivated.” In a concert career spanning the globe for more than 30 years, Lin is equally at home with orchestra, in recital, playing chamber music and in a teaching studio. Performing on several continents, he appears as soloist with major orchestras worldwide. In recent seasons, he has expanded his engagements to include performances as both soloist and conductor.
Also on the program is Mozart’s Symphony No. 35, which comes with its own bit of confusion. Referenced by critics and musicologists as the “Haffner,” it was originally composed as a serenade—yet it is not the “Haffner Serenade,” which Mozart composed six years earlier. Both works began life as ceremonial pieces, although they quickly transcended the label and usage. The Haffner family, prominent among the citizens of Salzburg, commissioned the original eight-movement serenade in 1776 to celebrate the marriage of Marie Elizabeth Haffner. The commission was so successful that in 1782 the family called upon Mozart once again, this time to provide background music for the ceremony raising Sigmund Haffner to the nobility.
Mozart’s final revision of the 35th Symphony has a grandeur and seriousness that seems more majestic than celebratory. The opening movement has sparkle and flash, enlivened by bold, octave-wide leaps and the development is sophisticated and polished, hardly resembling a serenade. The pace is calmer as the symphony progresses into its second movement, leading to a finale that Mozart marked “as fast as possible.” This is a symphony that combines crackling energy with consummate refinement.
“Siegfried Idyll” is relatively short (for Wagner, one of music history’s most remarkable figures) and written for a chamber ensemble rather than a huge “Wagner orchestra.” It is an intimate and beautiful piece that begins with a sunrise, literally and figuratively, a dazzling dawn that also marks the beginning of a new kind of life.
The work takes its name from Wagner’s son by his second wife, Cosima. At the time he fell wildly in love with Cosima—who was Franz Liszt’s illegitimate daughter by the Parisian socialite Marie d’Agoult—she was married to the acclaimed conductor Hans von Bülow, one of Wagner’s strongest supporters. Overwhelmed by money and artistic woes, Wagner accepted the Bülows’ offer of refuge in their country house. Wagner’s affair with Cosima was just one of many, but it proved fateful, dooming his marriage to his first wife, Minna. “Siegfried Idyll,” composed in celebration of his love for Cosima, was conceived as a birthday gift for her and specifically scored for an orchestra of 13 to 15 players to be positioned on the stairway leading to her bedroom. It was rehearsed in secret and played to awaken her on Christmas morning.
Completing the program is a work in a single movement for violin and orchestra by Dvořák, Romance in F Minor, which draws us in with its melodic intimacy. The piece began its life in sonata form: a graceful melody from the String Quartet No. 5. Romance in F Minor was transcribed from that quartet, but rather than a bar-for-bar adaptation substituting one instrument for another, Dvořák rescored the lovely, slow movement of his F Minor Quartet—first for violin and piano, then for violin and orchestra—by changing its fundamentals. The Romance begins with an inviting formal introduction that would have been out of place in the midst of a string quartet. And while the solo violin part reveals Dvořák’s special affection for that instrument, his addition of horns and winds expands the work’s palette beyond the strings’ voices.
While great composers often fall into one of two categories: born into musical families and their talents developing early or struggling against parental opposition to pursue careers in music; for the great Czech nationalist composer, it was a bit of both. His father, a village butcher, was an amateur musician who played the zither and had even composed music that was performed by the leading regional band. But a musician’s life was never in the cards for the elder Dvořák, and he was determined that it would not be for his son, either. Clearly, the younger Dvořák proved to be the stronger willed.
This weekend’s appearance of Cho-Liang Lin and the Saturday, Jan. 9, concert are generously sponsored by Dr. Stan and Dolores Sirott. The Symphony’s Classical series performances are made possible by the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation, with additional support from the Avenue of the Arts Wyndham Hotel, KUSC, KPCC and PBS SoCal.
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