Young master violinist Augustin Hadelich joins the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra to perform Felix Mendelssohn’s "Violin Concerto in E minor" in the Mendelssohn and Mahler concert this Sunday in Brandon.
Soprano Monica Huisman will replace Valdine Anderson for the concert, which begins at 3 p.m. at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium.
The muse hit Mendelssohn hard in 1838, in the guise of a violin concerto. Writing to his friend, the violinist Ferdinand David, Mendelssohn declared: "One in E minor keeps running through my head, and the opening gives me no peace."
The elegance, musical insight and technical brilliance of David’s playing had long entranced Mendelssohn. So it was natural that he would dedicate the new concerto to his gifted friend, whom Mendelssohn had known since his mid-teens.
Right from the soaring opening phrase, so tinged with melancholy, the concerto burns itself into the memory with its richness of melody.
The second theme is a quiet and happy partnership between soloist and woodwinds. The cadenza — thought to be by David himself — separates the development from the recapitulation that ends the movement in a flourish, followed by a solo bassoon carrying forward into the serenely songful Andante movement.
As challenging for the orchestra as for the soloist, the finale is sheer virtuosic éclat, in an aerated musical high-wire act whose delicacy and velocity are hallmarks of Mendelssohn’s style.
The second part of Sunday’s concert will feature Gustav Mahler’s "Symphony No. 4."
Mahler self-professed that he wanted his symphonies to be "worlds" where a wide variety of emotional states would be woven together to depict his mindsets.
In the first four symphonies, these regularly stand next to each other — marches flanking evocations of love, drinking songs next to spiritual quests, peasant dances alongside complex musical structures.
In fact, his whole body of symphonies can be seen overall as one similarly cosmic world where, in the words of his friend and champion, conductor Bruno Walter, "the force of spiritual events is matched by the power of musical imagination" in the often stormy questions, speculations and resolutions of existence Mahler wrestled with.
Child-like simplicity lies at the heart of this lovely work, the most modest in length and orchestral forces (no trombones or tuba).
Introduced by sleigh bells, the first movement is touchingly human in its cheerfulness.
In the second movement, death rears its head, dancing over the strains of an out-of-tune violin — perhaps intentionally naïve so that we view Death from a child’s perspective.
The serene third movement is a beautiful painting of St. Ursula, in variation form marked by alternating string and wind sonorities.
Only a pause, for a child-sized breath, separates the third movement from the finale. The longing for simplicity is the Fourth Symphony’s calling card, which Mahler never more perfectly revealed.
Single tickets for this Sunday’s concert are available at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium at 204-728-9510 or wmca.ca.