Rochester, NY – The second RPO-commissioned world premiere in almost as many months debuts with RPO Concertmaster Juliana Athayde (The Caroline W. Gannett & Clayla Ward Chair) performing Allen Shawn’s Violin Concerto, conducted by Music Director Christopher Seaman, and commissioned by Ron and Donna Fielding for the RPO and Ms. Athayde. Mr. Shawn is scheduled to be in attendance for both performances on Thursday, March 11 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, March 13 at 8:00 pm at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Bookending the concert are two atypically melancholy waltzes by Sibelius and Ravel, with Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5 “Reformation,” adding a romantic luster to the evening. Christopher Seaman hosts the First Niagara Pre-concert Chat one hour prior to concert start both evenings.
New York City-born composer Allen Shawn grew up hearing his brother play the violin, and first learned to love the instrument by reading through the classical repertoire with him and writing pieces for them to play together. “Although I am a pianist myself, I can’t help thinking of the violin and its repertoire as something close to the very soul of music,” Shawn remarked. The composer describes his violin concerto as “a singing, lyrical piece,” with the first movement beginning with a “wisp of an orchestral idea” heard again in the third and fourth movements. A long, melodic line is followed by an agitated central section, and closing with the original lyrical music. Trumpets, silent in the first movement, introduce the “fast and angular” second movement. “Movement three is elegiac and intimate,” continues Shawn. “The concerto was composed shortly after I had written three piano Elegies, and the tone of loss struck by this movement resembles that of the elegies.” The final movement is primarily “buoyant and joyful, balancing contrasting ideas in a spirit of energetic play,” which include suggestions of “baroque counterpoint, jazzy dance rhythms, and a waltz episode.”
Juliana Athyade has been RPO Concertmaster since 2005, having previously held the same position with the Canton and Plymouth symphonies. She has performed as guest concertmaster with the Houston Symphony and National Arts Centre Orchestra, and has performed both nationally and internationally with the Cleveland Orchestra. For many years Ms. Athayde was a fellow at the Aspen Music Festival and received the prestigious Dorothy DeLay fellowship in 2004. In addition to her numerous RPO solo appearances, Ms. Athayde also has performed with the Asheville, Canton, Diablo, Flint, Mid-Texas, New Bedford, Palo Alto, Plymouth, and Wyoming symphony orchestras. A nativeof the San Francisco Bay Area, Ms. Athayde made her solo debut at the age of 16 performing with the San Francisco Symphony. In 1998, she led the world-renowned San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra in performances at Paris’ Cite de la Musique, Leipzig’s Gewandhaus and Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. A passionate educator, Ms. Athayde is an Assistant Professor (part-time) of violin pedagogy at the Eastman School of Music, and travels the country giving master classes. Ms. Athayde spends her summers performing with her husband—RPO Principal Oboe Erik Behr—at San Diego’s Mainly Mozart Festival as well as the Sun Valley Summer Symphony in Idaho.
The “waltz” theme plays out in Sibelius’ “Valse Triste,” opening the concert with an unusually mysterious, haunting quality. What follows is Mendelssohn’s magnificent Fifth Symphony “Reformation,” written for the 300th anniversary of the Augsberg Confession, the central statement of faith of the Lutheran Church, Mendelssohn’s own adopted religion. The serious introduction leads into a powerful, heroic, main section. The light, playful, second movement is reminiscent of the composer’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. The slow third movement is a prayer-like song without words. The fourth and final movement follows without a break, and begins with the famous Marin Luther hymn, “A Might Fortress is Our God.”
Closing the concert is Ravel’s La Valse, referred to by Seaman as “a wonderful, impressionistic picture in music, beginning with dancers emerging from the mist, and ending with wild abandonment.”
Tickets for these performances are $20-$60, with $75 box seats, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org; by phone (454-2100); in-person from the RPO Box Office, 108 East Avenue, 10:00 am-5:00 pm, Monday-Saturday (non-concert Saturdays, 10:00 am-3:00 pm); and seven days a week at area Wegmans. A convenience fee may apply. The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by the Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb. This concert is sponsored by Zimmer Sales and Service; Juliana Athayde’s appearance is made possible by Ron and Donna Fielding.