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About this performance

Dvořák Legends
Brahms Violin Concerto
Rachmaninov Symphony No. 1

Christian Mǎcelaru conductor
Gil Shaham violin

The concert
A virtuoso violinist tackles Brahms.

Suitable only for the world’s greatest violinists, the stunning and fiendishly complicated Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D major provides Gil Shaham the perfect platform to display his legendary virtuosity.

Famed 19th century violinist Pablo de Sarasate refused to play it because Brahms included an oboe solo, remarking that he didn’t want to “stand on the rostrum, violin in hand and listen to the oboe play the only tune in the adagio”. American–Israeli violinist Gil Shaham has no such qualms; he has played the piece to great acclaim the world over.

A work of immense beauty, it is greatly indebted to the one man who towered over Brahms, psychologically as much as musically, Beethoven. This concerto references Beethoven’s in complex ways, but refuses to remain under its shade. Shaham’s exquisite playing demonstrates the work’s legitimacy in its own right.

Accompanying this work is a cycle of pieces originally written for piano but later arranged for orchestra, Dvořák’s Legends. It was largely because of Brahms — who was on the panel of judges that awarded Antonín Dvořák the Austrian State Prize in 1874 — that Europe came to know the then 33-year-old Czech composer’s music. Brahms recommended Dvořák to his publisher, who then commissioned what became the Slavonic Dances, Op. 46. The sheet music sold extremely well and Dvořák’s international reputation was launched.

Under the baton of Romanian maestro Christian Mǎcelaru, this program is completed by Rachmaninov’s First Symphony. A work which would hang like a dark shadow above the composer for years to come, the piece seemed doomed from its first performance. It was said a drunken Alexander Glazunov barely glanced down at the score when conducting the premiere of Rachmaninov’s First Symphony in 1897. It was a disaster. Rachmaninov didn’t bother to take the score of his First Symphony with him when he left Russia for America later in the 20th century. It was only a few months after his death a transcription was discovered. When the piece was performed in Moscow in 1945, for the first time since the premiere, it was, and has since been, an enormous success.

Running time
1 hour and 34 minutes, including a 20-minute interval.

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