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Stravinsky's Firebird and Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto with Leonidas Kavakos

This concert is now past.
Lionel Bringuier
Location: Avery Fisher Hall (Directions)
Price Range: $29.00 - $109.00
Duration:

Concert Duration

1 hour 50 minutes
Thu, Jun, 13, 2013
7:30 PM
Fri, Jun, 14, 2013
2:00 PM
Sat, Jun, 15, 2013
8:00 PM
Tue, Jun, 18, 2013
7:30 PM

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The 2014-15 Season

Program (Click the red play button to listen)

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The Sorcerer's Apprentice

PAUL DUKAS (1865-1935)
The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Scherzo after a ballad by Goethe (L'apprenti sorcier) (1897)

Usually and unjustly placed in the category of "one-hit wonders," Paul Dukas was actually a gifted composer who won the coveted Prix de Rome (1888); sadly, because he was extremely self-critical, he burned virtually all of his unpublished manuscripts, thereby reducing his slender musical legacy to around a dozen works. Fortunately, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which gained him wide recognition, was spared this fiery fate. Wolfgang von Goethe's 1797 ballad "Der Zauberlehrling" was the inspiration for the brilliant Scherzo. Of course, what propelled The Sorcerer's Apprentice into popular culture was Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940), the animated film whose soundtrack consisted of eight classical music masterpieces (though sometimes in altered forms), with Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. It was a brilliant stroke to cast Mickey Mouse as the apprentice, a cartoon character that was not even a glimmer in the eyes of Goethe or Dukas. A quick refresher on Goethe's poem's plot: a master sorcerer goes out, leaving his young apprentice to carry buckets of water for the bath from the river, but the lazy apprentice instead conjures a broom to do the hauling. When the apprentice realizes he has forgotten the spell for stopping the overachieving broom from flooding the house, he decides to split and destroy it with an ax, only doubling the disaster with two brooms now engaged in full-throttle water-carrying. With the flood out of control, the apprentice calls the sorcerer to sets things right. Mysterious sonorities open the tone poem, suggesting magical incantations, and the apprentice's spell is represented by a dissonant two-note motif that returns later in the piece. Galumphing bassoons portray the brooms, and as the disaster escalates, their music becomes faster, pounding out a relentless march. With all aquatic hell breaking loose, the music reaches a huge climax before the sorcerer returns — along with the incantatory music from the beginning — restoring the calm of a hard-learned lesson.
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Violin Concerto No. 2

SERGEI PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63 (1935)

Having completed his First Violin Concerto in 1917, and feeling uneasy about the implications of the Bolshevik Revolution, Sergei Prokofiev decided to leave Russia in 1918, not planning to return. But after traveling throughout the world (including the United States) and settling in Paris he decided to go home in 1933, after 15 years of self-imposed exile. During his time away from Russia, he was active both as a composer and pianist, and the Second Violin Concerto was his last "émigré" commission. Prokofiev speaks of how he came to write the concerto: "In 1935 a group of admirers of the French violinist [Robert] Soetens asked me to write a violin concerto for him, giving him exclusive right to perform it for one year. I readily agreed. ... As in the case of the preceding concerto, I began searching for an original title for the piece, such as 'Concert Sonata for Violin and Orchestra,' but finally returned to the simplest solution: Concerto No. 2. Nevertheless, I wanted it to be altogether different from No.1, both as to music and style." The work opens with a lyrical, yearning solo entrance for the violin, but brilliant passages soon follow. Listen for the ominous presence of the bass drums heard here and again in the third movement. The expressive second movement Andante — the heart of this concerto — features a graceful interplay of legato melody and pizzicato accompaniment; some may hear in it a harbinger of the Romeo and Juliet ballet he was also working on at the time, as well as echoes of his popular "Classical Symphony." The finale breaks into an energetic, earthy dance tune — angular and brash in its conception, with vibrantly colored passages for the winds and percussion (the castanets and other Spanish accents are a tip of the sombrero to the Madrid premiere). The final flurry of notes from the soloist is marked tumultuoso with good reason.
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Dances of Galánta

ZOLTÁN KODÁLY (1882-1967)
Dances of Galánta (1933)

As a child Zoltán Kodály lived in the small town of Galánta where his father was the railroad stationmaster for a time. There he also heard a gypsy band that later sparked his interest in collecting traditional Hungarian folk songs and dances and transcribing them. In 1905 he undertook his first research expedition into central Europe's back country, with Galánta as his starting point. "Sometimes I would just buttonhole people in the street, invite them to come and have a drink, and get them to sing for me ..." His fellow-Hungarian composer Béla Bartók shared this passion for ethno-musicology, saying: "We found in the most ancient Hungarian peasant music what at last proved to be suitable material for forming the basis of a higher Hungarian art music." There was a vigor and authenticity that seemed to give new life to more formal musical genres. Their interest in folk tunes influenced and inspired their works — a trend that had already begun in the late 19th century as waves of musical nationalism began to infiltrate "serious" music. The Budapest Philharmonic Society commissioned Kodály to write a new work for their 80th anniversary, and a collection of Hungarian folk tunes published in 1804 became the basis for the piece. He wrote (referring to himself in the third person): "The forebears of these Gypsies [in Galánta] were known more than 100 years ago. About 1800 some books of Hungarian dances were published in Vienna, one of which contained music 'based on Gypsies from Galánta.' They have preserved the old Hungarian traditions. In order to keep them alive, the composer has taken his principal themes from these old editions." The five colorful, beguiling dances, mainly verbunkos (i.e., recruiting dances), place flute and clarinet in the spotlight. Bartók later paid Kodály the highest compliment, writing: "If I were asked to name the composer whose works are the most perfect embodiment of the Hungarian spirit, I would answer, Kodály ... His composing is rooted only in Hungarian soil."
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Firebird Suite

IGOR STRAVINSKY (1882–1971)
The Firebird (1910)

The Firebird, Stravinsky’s first ballet, catapulted the young composer to spectacular international fame. The score’s vibrant colors glitter and pulse with fantastic effects, from primitive to luminous, created by a “wastefully large orchestra” (so said Stravinsky later). The ballet’s exotic scenario overflows with the stuff of legends: a prince, 13 princesses, the Firebird’s magic feather, and the enchanted garden of the evil ogre Kastchei and his malevolent minions. The sound world Stravinsky created is a masterful combination of inspiration from his musical “godfathers” (Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov) and utterly original, daring inventions, such as shifting accents, repeated patterns of melodies and rhythms, and bold orchestral colors. Among the many familiar memorable passages — most of them known from one of the suites the composer created — are the lustrous dance of the Firebird herself, the menacing dance of Kastchei and his band of evil-doers, and the Lullaby and Finale, a spectacular, shimmering climax proclaiming that the prince and princess will live happily ever after.

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Conductor

Lionel Bringuier by Jonathan Grimbert Barre

Lionel Bringuier is chief conductor designate of Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra, which he will join as music director in the 2014–15 season. Highlights of his 2012–13 season included debuts with the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestras, as well as the National Orchestra of Spain in Madrid; returns to Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France; and his sixth and final season as resident conductor with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in which he conducted subscription performances at Walt Disney Concert Hall and concerts at the Hollywood Bowl and in the Green Umbrella contemporary-music series, and worked with important guest conductors and music director Gustavo Dudamel. Mr. Bringuier conducted Bizet’s Carmen in 2011 in Valladolid, with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León, and Stockholm, with the Royal Swedish Opera. Future plans include Carmen at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, among other international invitations.

In 2005 Lionel Bringuier won the 49th Besançon Young Conductors Competition (the unanimous choice of the jury), the Prix du Public as the audience favorite, as well as the top vote of the musicians of the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse. Since then he has conducted and been invited to return to some of the leading orchestras in the world, including the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonic orchestras, and The Cleveland Orchestra. Mr. Bringuier served as music director of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León in Valladolid, Spain, from 2009 to 2012.

Born in Nice, France, in 1986, Lionel Bringuier attended the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris from the age of 13, beginning conducting studies in 2000 with Zsolt Nagy. He also participated in master classes with Peter Eötvös and Janos Fürst. In June 2004 Mr. Bringuier received his diploma in cello and conducting with Mention Très Bien à l'unanimité. Other distinctions include the Médaille d’or à l’unanimité avec les felicitations du jury à l’Académie Prince Rainier III de Monaco, the médaille d’or from the Lord Mayor of Nice, as well as first prize in a competition organized by the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra in Ostrava, Czech Republic. He has also received prizes from the Swiss Foundation Langart and the Cziffra Foundation. Lionel Bringuier previously appeared with the Philharmonic in June 2009, when he conducted the chamber orchestra in Britten’s War Requiem in performances led by then-Music Director Lorin Maazel during the final weeks of his tenure.

Learn more about Lionel Bringuier

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Violin

Leonidas Kavakos

Leonidas Kavakos first won international recognition in his teens, when he won the Sibelius Competition in 1985 and, three years later, the Paganini Competition. He performs with the Vienna, Berlin, La Scala, and Los Angeles philharmonic orchestras; Leipzigs Gewandhaus, amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw, Mariinsky Theatre, Philadelphia, and Boston and London symphony orchestras; and Orchestre de Paris, among others. He has been a tour soloist with the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras as well as the New York and Vienna Philharmonic orchestras, and in the 2012–13 season is the focus of the London Symphony Orchestra’s UBS Soundscapes LSO Artist Portrait. He is also the Berlin Philharmonic’s artist-in-residence.

Mr. Kavakos is increasingly recognized as a conductor, having appeared as conductor/soloist with the Boston and Atlanta Symphony Orchestras; Royal Stockholm and La Scala Philharmonic orchestras; Maggio Musicale Fiorentino; and Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. His 2012–13 season conducting debuts include the Finnish Radio and Vienna Symphony Orchestras. In October 2012 he returned to Santa Cecilia, where he appeared in a variety of programs in a special series titled Focus Kavakos. As a chamber musician and recitalist, he appears often at the Verbier, Montreux-Vevey, Bad Kissingen, Edinburgh, and Salzburg festivals.

Leonidas Kavakos is an exclusive Decca recording artist. His first release on the label, comprising the complete Beethoven violin sonatas with pianist Enrico Pace, was released in January 2013. His past releases on Sony Classical include the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (recipient of an ECHO Klassik award for Best Concerto Recording 2009) and a live recording of Mozart’s five violin concertos and Symphony No. 39 with Camerata Salzburg. In 1991 Mr. Kavakos won a Gramophone Award for the first-ever recording of the original version of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto (BIS). He plays the “Abergavenny” Stradivarius of 1724. Mr. Kavakos made his New York Philharmonic debut in July 2002 performing Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, led by Bramwell Tovey. Leonidas Kavakos last appeared with the Philharmonic in June 2012 performing Korngold’s Violin Concerto, led by Music Director Alan Gilbert, in the same week in which he joined Mr. Gilbert (on violin) and Philharmonic musicians for Schubert’s String Quintet in C major on the June 2012 Saturday Matinee Concert.

Learn more about Leonidas Kavakos

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