August 16 2013
This summer has been an unusually busy one, but I am just about to start a 2-week break! Last week I played a performance of Stravinsky's violin concerto, the first time I've played it since 8 years ago, when I was still a student at Juilliard and performed it with the Juilliard Orchestra. It is interesting to return to a piece after putting it down for such a long time - as I started playing it again, I was at first mostly shaking my head at all the things I didn't know in 2005! I also rediscovered why I love this piece. It is so fresh, beautiful, and very funny - the first movement makes me think of a circus! The third movement (Aria II) is my favorite one - it has the violin playing a strange, exotic, chant-like melody over a baroque bass-line. Many parts of this piece sound like a concerto grosso, in the sense that the solo violin is often playing duos and trios: with the Bassoon, the concertmaster, the two flutes. The violin part is very hard and quite virtuosic in parts, although to the listener it does not sound quite as hard as it actually is (infuriatingly, Stravinsky wrote that "the technical demands are relatively tame", which ranks among the composer's more ridiculous statements).
In his neo-classical works, Stravinsky writes music that is almost baroque sounding, except that it is full of "mistakes": notes that are obnoxiously off-key, rythms that don't add up; there is a general state of chaos and mischief! At times sounds as though different sections of the orchestra instruments are lost and are desperately trying to find each other, only making matters worse. I think it's quite important to bring this comedic aspect of the music across.
In June, I recorded a new CD, to be released in the spring of 2014: Sibelius and Thomas Adès violin concertos, with Hannu Lintu conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. It'll be only the second recording to be released of the Adès, which has quickly become one of my favorite pieces. I think Hannu was just the perfect conductor to record these two works with: his approach to Sibelius was fresh and free of "baggage": it is a piece that can sometimes sound plodding and heavy, as though it was bearing the weight of the thousands of recordings that have been made of it before - instead he brought a wonderful spontaneity to it. It was Hannu who first introduced me to the Ades concerto when we first collaborated in 2009 - how fitting to recording it with him.
My performances in Vail (Lalo Symphonie Espagnole with the New York Philharmonic and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos) and at the Hollywood Bowl (Tchaikovsky concerto with the LA Philharmonic and also with Frühbeck de Burgos) were big highlights for me this summer. What an experience to play the Tchaikovsky at the Hollywood Bowl, in front of over 9000 people! The big tutti in the first movement after the exposition (after I've just played about 10 minutes and the orchestra plays the theme triumphantly) is one of the most exhilarating experiences I've ever had on stage. Usually, I sing along with the orchestra there (since nobody can possibly hear me over the sound of the full orchestra tutti, not even the conductor!), but I had to restrain myself at the Bowl, since the amplification system there might have broadcasted my humming to the whole crowd. As I found out later, a man in the audience proposed to his girlfriend during my performance!
May 21 2013
I am about to head to Salt Lake City to perform the Dvorak concerto with the Utah Symphony, and will play the piece again in two weeks with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C. It's often said that Brahms' violin concerto served as the main inspiration for the Dvorak--yet recently, I was struck by how much the Dvorak is also influenced by Max Bruch's concerto. The Bruch was premiered about 10 years earlier, in 1866, and it quickly became one of the most popular works for violin. It sets a clear precedent for many techniques employed by Dvorak in his own violin concerto, especially in the first movement: for example, shortening of the first movement, cutting out the cadenza and recapitulation and instead transitioning directly into an expansive slow movement; not to mention the opening ad libitum lines for the violin. I love the slow movement, which makes me think of an idyllic Czech countryside, and features some incredibly beautiful writing for the horns. The last movement is a lot of fun: it's a kind of furiant dance, with a dumka in the middle. Although Dvorak wrote his concerto for Joseph Joachim, he never actually played the piece. This might have been the starting point for the shameful neglect that this work has experienced over the past century. With a few notable exceptions like Nathan Milstein, many major violinists in the early 20th century did not have the Dvorak in their repertoire. Luckily it has now found its place in the canon as one of the great romantic violin concertos.
Two weeks ago I played Thomas Adès' amazing violin concerto in Rio de Janeiro. This piece is less than 10 years old--it was premiered in 2005--and the more I play it, the more convinced I am that it is the most important addition to the violin repertoire since the Ligeti concerto in 1992. When I first heard it a few years ago, the Adès concerto left a deep impression on me and I quickly decided that I had to learn and perform it. It's about 20 minutes long and is cast in three contrasting movements. There is not one bar too many in this piece! The first movement, "Rings", is very fast and colorful, full of circular, irregular pulsating patterns. The deeply moving and passionate second movement, "Paths", is driven by passacaglia-like sequences that keep pushing against each other. "Rounds", the final movement, is lighter in spirit, with a dancelike and almost tribal-sounding main theme. It's very difficult, but like the Ligeti, I find that it is worth every minute I put into it.
Histoire du Tango released
My new CD is now out! It's called Histoire du Tango and you can find it on Amazon and iTunes.
It's an exploration of music for violin and guitar that starts off with Ástor Piazzolla's Histoire du Tango, a four-movement work that traces the development of the tango from the brothels of Buenos Aires around 1900, to the cafés of the 1930s and nightclubs of the 1960s, to the stylized art form played in concert halls today. Next are transcriptions of the Canciones Populares Españolas by Manuel de Falla and two works by Nicolò Paganini: the Sonata Concertata and the fiendishly difficult Moses Fantasy, a work played entirely on the G string (the violin's lowest string). (Legend has it that Paganini would often play this work at the end of concerts once his other three strings had broken!) Pablo de Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs) finishes the program.
I recorded this album with the brilliant guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas, whom I first met in 2009. I immediately loved the sound of our two instruments together, and was struck by how rarely violin and guitar are heard together on stage and recording, even though the combination is found in so many popular music settings (like tango and gypsy bands).
Click here to view a short video clip on YouTube, where we talk about the album and play one of the movements of the Piazzolla.
I just finished a series of performances of the Brahms concerto - in Denver, Memphis, Buffalo and Tampere (Finland). It's amazing how different and new this piece feels every time as I play it with different people. Next up I'm playing Paganini's first violin concerto with Saint Louis Symphony and Yan Pascal Tortelier. Paganini's music is dismissed by many as mainly technical, but the first thing I think when I think of this piece is opera: it's written in the lyrical, highly expressive style of the bel canto tradition…with some virtuosic episodes thrown in. It’s music that should melt your heart before it dazzles you. One of my first teachers, the Italian violinist Uto Ughi (with whom I studied in Siena from age 8 to 11) understood this, and his approach to this concerto has always been a great inspiration to me. I love Paganini's sense of humor too, and it's essential to bring that out, despite how hard the piece is technically. A few years ago, I wrote a cadenza for it (link), in which I try to emphasize the fun side of the piece.
Mozart concertos in Toronto and Dallas
My new, redesigned website is finished! It was designed (like the previous one) by the brilliant Balázs Böröcz from Pilvax Studio!
I just returned from Toronto, where I played Mozart's fourth concerto, coupled with the virtuosic Rondo from the "Haffner"-Serenade, with Peter Oundjian conducting. Every collaboration with him is like chamber music, and I feel like he knows what I'm going to do before even I know it!
This week I'm playing Mozart's 5th concerto in my Dallas Symphony debut with Jaap van Zweden.
Is it possible to have a favorite Mozart violin concerto? Luckily, I don't have to pick a favorite, and get to play both two weeks in a row!
Overall, the 5th concerto is flashier and more extroverted, while the 4th concerto is more intimate and elegant. When it comes to the slow movements, I feel that the concertos 3, 4 and 5 are tied, and one is more beautiful than the other. The beauty of the Andante of the 4th concerto lies in its simplicity - the music is so pure, and communicates something that is impossible to put into words. Already as a child, I loved playing this movement.
The slow movement of the 5th is also very beautiful but it is more the kind of beauty one finds in Beethoven - the beauty of something carefully constructed, refined to perfection. In Beethovenian manner, Mozart had discarded his original slow movement (which is now known as the Adagio in E Major) and replaced it with this new Adagio. I love how the meter of the first theme seems to shift, keeping the listener guessing where the bar lines are, and there is a gently rocking feeling to much of this movement.
Mozart liked to insert folk tunes in the Rondo movements of his concertos. In the case of the 4th, one of the interludes is a rustic Gavotte with a musette (a bagpipe imitation), which remains very funny even today. The last movement of the fifth concerto contains a "Turkish" episode - for a moment, it sounds as if we're in the middle of the abduction from the seraglio! Of course, it's Turkish folk music as heard through the ears of an Austrian 18th century composer, and quite different from how somebody like Bartók would have written it down!
October 16 2012
So much has happened since my last post, that I'm not even sure where to start! The biggest highlights of the last few months: first of all, my Tanglewood debut in August, when I played Barber concerto with Bramwell Tovey, which was a night I will never forget; I also returned to play with orchestras in Fort Worth and Saarbrücken, and to the chamber music festivals in Seattle and La Jolla; just a week ago I played the Beethoven concerto with the Los Angeles Chamber orchestra and Jeffrey Kahane; and now this coming week, I'm playing Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole with the New York Philharmonic and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos!
This will be my subscription debut with the NY Philharmonic, in Avery Fisher Hall, and I've been looking forward to it for a long time. The Lalo is a beautiful and exciting work, which until just a few decades ago was one of the most frequently played concertos in the violin repertoire, and for good reason. Nowadays you hardly ever hear it in concert, but wherever I play it, listeners are pretty surprised to rediscover what a great piece it is.
Writing Spanish music was very fashionable in France at the time the work was written. Bizet's opera Carmen premiered the same year, in 1875! Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole is very emotional and hot-blooded, full of Spanish themes and rythms, and each of the five movements is like a different vignette of the idealized version of Spain that captured the imagination of the French around that time. I find that I love it more the more I play it, which is always the sign of a great piece. The violin writing is flashy in all five movements, with a lot of very fast notes which is not surprising, since it was written for the Spanish virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate, who presumably enjoyed showing off his technique with it.
Rehearsals start tomorrow - I can't wait!
May 17 2012
I just finished a series of performances of the Brahms concerto, a work I will never grow tired of, with three wonderful conductors: Mei-Ann Chen, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, and Giancarlo Guerrero. What I love about it (and something that people criticized when it was premiered) is that the orchestra is not just a backdrop or accompaniment, but rather an equal partner. It is like playing chamber music on a very large scale. There is no other great concerto that has so many instances in which the violinist follows the orchestra, or accompanies and ornaments while the winds play the important thematic material. At the same time, the soloist gets to shine in the most dramatic and the most poetic moments, and is the one who drives the development of the material - I never feel like Brahms didn't give me enough to do, he really struck a perfect balance.
The famous opening of the slow movement is one of the most beautiful oboe solos ever written, and whenever I stand on the stage listening to it, waiting to enter, I wish that moment would last forever.
Since my last news entry, there was also my first performance of the Britten violin concerto, a piece which leaves the performer and audience gasping for breath at the end. Luckily the work is getting played more and more these days; I definitely can't wait to do it again. There was a very special Dvorak concerto with Peter Oundjian and the Seattle Symphony, and a second performance of the Ligeti concerto, this time with Rossen Milanov and the Symphony in C.
This summer I'm particularly looking forward to playing my Boston Symphony debut at Tanglewood with the Barber concerto! This is a piece that is rarely played in Europe, so I didn't really know it before coming to the United States. Over the last 6-7 years, I fell in love with it and played it more and more. Like in the Brahms concerto, the slow movement starts with an incredible oboe solo, Barber must have been looking to the Brahms for inspiration.
July 22 2010
Fantastic news! I'm filling in (three days notice) for Nikolaj Znaider with the New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert at the "Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival" in Colorado - I'm playing the Mendelssohn concerto (link). This is unbelievably exciting for me, since it's my New York Philharmonic debut - I can't wait!
The last few weeks were very stimulating and fun. I was playing at the Seattle Chamber Music Society, which was just as great an experience as it was last year. One of the highlights was playing the Schubert string quintet with an incredible cast of players led by James Ehnes last friday!
I also have another youtube video out - this time of the Schumann violin sonata from my recital at Town Hall in April (link).
August 13 2010
I'm back from Seattle, where I played three really great works of music: first up was Shostakovich's powerful string quartet no. 8 (with Stefan Jackiw, Richard O'Neill and Edward Arron, a very satisfying performance), then the Schubert Duo in A Major, and Beethoven's quartet Op. 59/3. The previous week I played the Brahms concerto at the Chautauqua Festival in up-state New York. This is where I played my first concert in the United States in 2001, nine years ago!
My debut with the New York Philharmonic in Vail on July 24 was a success, and was definitely one of the highlights of 2010, and of my career in general. I was also extremely happy about a review that came out in the Denver Post (link).
As the next Indianapolis competition draws near (it takes place September 10-26), the time has come to say goodbye to the Ex-Gingold Stradivari, which I've been playing since October 2006. I have learned a lot from playing this violin, and we've been through so much together! It's sad to give it back - I hope that the next violinist to play it will enjoy it as much as I did.
The great news is that I have been loaned a beautiful 1723 Stradivari violin (from the so-called "golden period") - the "Ex-Kiesewetter". I have it on loan from Clement and Karen Arrison, through the Stradivari Society of Chicago. It had been a long search, and I am incredibly grateful for the loan of this instrument.
Switching instruments is only fun if you like what you're switching to, and this one is very special, with a very beautiful and strong sound. They were made 40 years apart from each other, and are both extremely different and very similar at the same time. I can already tell that I will love exploring this violin's colors and nuances.
September 29 2010
I just returned from Karlsruhe, where I played the Brahms concerto with my friend Justin Brown - once again, it was absolutely wonderful to play with him. One of the nice things about our collaborations, is that it sounds better and better with every rehearsal and concert - the last concert we gave yesterday was incredibly satisfying and I felt like the piece came to life the way I wanted it to. Sometimes, when the chemistry between violinist and conductor isn't right, it can be the opposite: the first rehearsals are quite exciting, and then it becomes more stale and unnatural with each further time we play it.
This was just after another good collaboration on the Brahms in Phoenix with Michael Christie, and a recital in Indianapolis in-between the semi-final and final rounds of the new competition, which just finished. I was extremely impressed with the playing of all the laureates and many other contestants this year. All the performances are up for video-streaming on www.violin.org by the way.
It was nice and strange at the same time for me to be there once again, but this time as a spectator. I had flashbacks waiting for results and to the anxiety and pressure that I had felt when I competed four years ago. I am so happy that I never have to go through that again!
I also thought about how much has happened during the last four years, and all the concerts I've played, places I've been to and repertoire I've learned since. While it's not fun to be judged against your friends and colleagues, the Indianapolis competition does open a lot of doors and jump-started my career. Indianapolis will always have a place in my heart!
I played the recital with Rohan De Silva (who had been my pianist four years ago), and the entire jury and many of the contestants came to it. How scary, to play in front of so many brilliant and critical violinists! As Jaime Laredo joked to me afterwards, "this is the toughest audience you'll ever play for".
Before Phoenix I played Sibelius in Reno (my first Sibelius in 4 years) and Beethoven in Indianapolis. Tomorrow I fly to Columbus, OH to play Beethoven with Günther Herbig. After that, I'm off to New Orleans to play the Alban Berg concerto and Haydn concerto in C with Carlos Miguel Prieto. It will be my first Berg concerto actually, and I can't wait. All together, it will have been three Beehoven performances, five Brahms, two Sibelius, one Berg and one Haydn as well as one full-length recital, and all of that in exactly 30 days!
November 20 2010
I'm in Houston this week, playing Chausson Poème and Ravel Tzigane, with Hans Graf. It's one of the highlights of my season (my subscription debut in Houston actually), and I love playing the two pieces together in this pairing. It's actually my first time performing the Ravel with orchestra - I've often performed the earlier version of the work for violin and piano. At first I thought that playing it with orchestra would mean that I couldn't be as flexible rythmically, but it actually turned out to not be a problem, because it's orchestrated so intelligently. Ravel was a masterful orchestrator, and I'm really enjoying the amazing colors that the orchestra version brings to the piece.
The review of the first concert is here (link)
My next CD (with Robert Kulek) will be released on iTunes in December! The program is Poulenc sonata, Stravinsky Suite after Pergolesi, Debussy sonata, and Prokofiev sonata no 2. Making a CD is pretty exhausting; playing in the recording session is actually the easiest part! It's having to listen through everything afterwards looking for the best takes, the long editing process, writing the liner notes, and worst of all, the proof-reading that is really tedious. But it's finally done; Balázs from Pilvax Studio (who also made this website) designed a beautiful booklet for the CD, using photos of me and Robert that he took in Paris when we were there in April.
I decided to call the CD "echoes of Paris". (It's actually hard to come up with a title with the word "Paris" in it that is not totally corny!) Each of these four composers spent many years living in Paris, and I speculate in the booklet that maybe the reason that these pieces fit so well together on a program is because of how that city and its artistic milieu influenced their styles. The neo-classical Stravinsky and the Debussy sonata were written within a few years from one another, and both these composers influenced Poulenc greatly (and you can really hear that in his violin sonata). The Prokofiev is not an early work, but is also rather neo-classical in style, and is extremely compatible with the other pieces.
I've been rewriting my cadenzas for Mozart 4, which I'm playing with the Iris chamber orchestra in two weeks. I decided to start over because I had composed myself into a corner, and was completely stuck. I'm much happier now, but you don't know whether a cadenza works until you perform it in the context of the concerto.
Happy New Year 2011
I just returned from visiting my parents in Italy, where I spent a relaxing ten days. It's so good to have a break! Before that, I played the Dvorak concerto in Saarbrücken, Germany, which was a very special concert for me. The conductor, Christoph Poppen, was actually one of my first violin teachers when I was eight years old, and because of that we have a special chemistry and understanding between us. The concert was also filmed and broadcast on the the SWR3 German television channel (where it aired last week). In a production like this, the dress rehearsal is usually filmed as well, and during the rehearsal we had to bow in front of the empty hall as though there were people sitting there! The whole thing was a thrilling experience, and maybe the most fun I've had with the Dvorak concerto so far.
My new CD of violin-piano works by Poulenc, Stravinsky, Debussy and Prokofiev is now available for download on iTunes and Amazon mp3. It's called 'Echoes of Paris'. The non-digital, physical, plastic, old-fashioned CD will be released on February 8 :)
If you buy it on iTunes, you also get the booklet as a pdf download with it, so head over there and check it out!
I added my new cadenza for Mozart no. 4 to the about/cadenzas section of the site, and revised some of the others, correcting mistakes and putting in a few additional markings. I want to make them user-friendly if anybody wants to check them out, but don't want to make the mistake of writing too many instructions (pulling an 'Ysaÿe', you might say). How somebody plays the cadenza depends entirely on the approach that they have for the work the cadenza fits into. So I often wrote the slurs and articulation exactly the way they are written in the corresponding parts in the concerto.
I'm about to go off on an intense series of concerts. First up, Brahms double concerto with my friend Alban Gerhardt. I know this is going to be fun!
April 3 2011
A lot has happened since my last update. I was really excited and very honored to be awarded a Borletti-Buitoni Trust fellowship in February!
I played with some really amazing orchestras and conductors in the last few months - After my debut with the Baltimore Symphony in January, I played with the Cleveland orchestra in March, and just now came back from my debut in Cincinnati! I also returned to Jacksonville and Denver to play with the orchestras there and visited a few other places for the first time, like Salt Lake City and Spokane - plus I played some recitals with my friend Joyce Yang, which was lots of fun.
The conductors I played with couldn't have been more inspiring either. I played for the first time with Juanjo Mena, Peter Oundjian and Julian Kuerti, and reunited with Fabio Mechetti, Giancarlo Guerrero and Hannu Lintu.
Of course playing with the Cleveland orchestra in Miami was particularly special. There's a short little clip from my concert with the Cleveland orchestra in miami on YouTube (link
It has certainly been an intense few months, and a lot to juggle (I played 7 different concertos in three months!), but I enjoyed every minute of it. They were all such exciting engagements, every time I came back from a trip I couldn't wait to go play the next concert.
In my 'spare time', I've been working on learning the violin concerto by Thomas Adès, an amazing and beautiful piece (written in 2005) that I'm playing for the first time in August, at the Chautauqua festival. I've been wanting to play this piece for a while now, ever since I first heard it - I feel that it really stands out among contemporary violin concertos, and that it will one day be part of the standard concerto repertoire.
Next up, I will play some recitals with Robert Kulek in Philadelphia (on April 10) and Charlottesville (April 12) - rehearsals start tomorrow!
July 25 2011
I just returned from a wonderful week of concerts in Aspen and Vail, Colorado.
In Aspen, I played Bach double concerto and Schnittke concerto grosso no. 1 (also a double violin concerto) with the wonderful violinist Julia Fischer, and the Aspen Chamber Symphony conducted by Vasily Petrenko. I loved playing with Julia, it was a really fun and inspiring collaboration. Interestingly, the Schnittke is unusual among double concertos, in that it has the soloists, after playing together nicely at first, eventually turn against each other in the cadenza. As Vasily pointed out, it sounds like two people having an angry fight, snapping and barking at each other. In the last movement the cembalo starts playing a tango, and the two violinists join in the dance, perhaps still harboring some lingering resentment. The Bach couldn't be more different - the dialogue between the two violins is always harmonious and loving, and it's impossible for the performance to work if the violinists don't get along!
The day after, I played Mozart concerto no. 5 with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic in Vail. It was just as amazing to play with them as last year. Half-way through the second movement, my E string broke! In a recital, I would just go backstage, change the string, and return. In this situation though, I couldn't leave the orchestra and 6000 people in the audience waiting, so Sheryl Staples, who was concertmaster for the concerto, handed me her Guarneri Del Gesù violin, and I was able to keep playing on it (it was a lovely violin as well). By the time we got to the last movement, somebody had put on a new E string on the Kiesewetter Strad, and I was able to finish the piece on it.
I will play the same piece again with Alan and the NY Phil on September 23 at Caramoor, New York - hopefully without any such adventures.
On Monday I'm going to beautiful La Jolla for some chamber music, and then on to Chautauqua where I will play the Thomas Adès concerto for the first time, as well as Haydn concerto in C.
September 30 2011
The 2011/12 season has started! I'm excited about all the exciting places I'll go to this year, and also about all the interesting and varied repertoire - between now and May, I'll play 13 different concertos and 2 recital programs! I'm particularly looking forward to playing the Ligeti violin concerto in January with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. I believe it's one of the most important violin pieces of the 20th century (also one of the hardest!), and I'm really thrilled to get the opportunity to perform it.
In August, I played my first performance of the Adès violin concerto at the Chautauqua festival. It was a huge task to learn, but it was powerful and exhilarating to perform, and I'll definitely make the piece a permanent addition to my repertoire.
Last weekend, I played with the New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert at Caramoor. It was a repeat performance of the Mozart 5 we did in July in Vail, CO, and it was even more fun this time around. Although it was a wet, rainy day, and all of us (players, audience, myself) braved rain, flooded streets and weekend traffic to get there, it was a very special night. Alan is a sensitive and inspiring collaborator, who brings out the best in everybody he plays with - and as a violinist himself, he knows the concerto inside and out.
The week before that, I was in Fort Worth playing Lalo Symphonie Espagnole with my friend Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the Fort Worth Symphony. I felt that I was with old friends, and realized that I played with them 4 times in the last 5 years! The Lalo is a piece that is both fun to play and to hear, and is very rarely done nowadays. I'll play it again in December, in Monte-Carlo.
Coming up next are concerts in Indianapolis, Raleigh and Grand Rapids, and then a 3-week tour of Brazil with the Sao Paulo State orchestra!
Happy New Year
Happy New Year! 2011 was a really exciting year for me, starting with a new CD being released, debuts with the Baltimore, Cincinnati and Atlanta symphonies, and return engagements with the Cleveland Orchestra and New York Philharmonic. In the fall fall I played my second recital at the Kennedy center, went on a tour of Brazil with the Sao Paulo Symphony and Yan Pascal Tortelier, and got to play with some really exciting young conductors for the first time: Kazuki Yamada in Strasbourg, José Luis Gomez in Grand Rapids, and Christian Vasquez in Monte-Carlo.
My fall was overshadowed however by the passing of Michal Schmidt, who had been my manager for the past 10 years. I joined her roster when I was just 17, still living on a remote farm in Tuscany. If I'd never met her, I probably would not have come to New York seven years ago to study, and I'd be a very different violinist and person. She was more than just a manager - she was a mentor and a friend, and since she died in October, I haven't played a concert without thinking of her, her passion for music and love for her artists.
In a few days, I'm going to Amsterdam to play Tchaikovsky, then to St. Paul to play Ligeti, and then on to Prokofiev 2, Paganini 1, Barber and Britten, with a few recitals in-between!
Tchaikovsky and Ligeti - January 16 2012
The last two weeks were a real whirlwind: first I played at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam for the first time, with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and Mei-Ann Chen. It was such an amazing feeling to descend the long Concertgebouw staircase onto the stage! I've played the Tchaikovsky quite a lot over the past few years - I recently realized how much parts of it remind me of the Rococo variations. Mozart was Tchaikovsky's favorite composer, and looking at this piece it makes sense! The first theme of the violin concerto is quite classical (in contrast to the second theme, which is the most romantic and passionate thing imaginable) - it's so important that they sound different.
From Amsterdam I went to St. Paul, where I played the Ligeti concerto for the first time. It was a thrill to perform - the piece is among the hardest and most energy-consuming things one can play on the violin. Now I know how those people feel when they're defusing the bomb and have to decide whether to cut the red or the blue wire! (that's how I feel during the first movement!) The slow movement is so beautiful - it's like a glimpse of a distant time and culture and its music, completely strange sounding, and yet incredibly beautiful. It will take weeks until this music will stop going through my head! In what is quite unusual with orchestras in the US, we had 6 hours of rehearsal with the orchestra, and even a sectional with some principles beforehand. The St. Paul Chamber orchestra and the conductor Joana Carneiro were incredible. We got a good review too (link
Next, I will go to Madison to play Prokofiev 2 - that should chase the Ligeti out of my mind - and then to the West Coast to play recitals with the amazing Joyce Yang (website
). As hard as these first months of 2012 are in terms of how much repertoire I'm playing in a short time, I've never been happier on stage - what could be better than to play such incredible music in these places and with these musicians?
February 8 2012
I just got back from Karlsruhe, Germany, where I played a very unusual concert. The orchestra (Badische Staatskapelle Karlsruhe) is celebrating its 350th anniversary (!) this season, and they recreated a concert program that Paganini played with that same orchestra in 1829! It consisted of the first concerto, the 'Moses-Variations', 'Le Streghe', and 'Carnevale di Venezia' - in between all these pieces, a singer sang arias from Mozart and Pacini operas.
It was really fun, and fascinating to do a concert program from that era - in a way it's refreshingly different from the formula overture-concerto-symphony that most concerts follow nowadays. As an encore, I played Paganini 24, which for all we know might very well have been his encore!
The first concerto is just gorgeous - in too many performances, the technical fireworks distract from the lyricism of his music, when they should really just be humorous diversions and dramatic flourishes, between the beautifully sung themes. I was reminded once again what an accomplished composer Paganini was, and what an amazing talent he had for writing bel canto melodies. Not all his works may be as great as these, but this week, he was definitely my favorite composer!
May 2 2012
Great news! I was incredibly honored to receive a Martin Segal award today. This is an award that is given every year by Lincoln Center to two recipients, which are chosen by two Lincoln Center Institutions. The New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert nominated me this year!
My concerts with them last year and in 2010 were huge highlights for me, and Alan has been a wonderful mentor. This October, I'm going to make my subscription debut with the New York Philharmonic in Avery Fisher hall (playing Lalo Symphonie Espagnole)!