Changsha Concert Hall
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Vltava, symphonic poem from „My Country“
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 53, B108
Symphony no. 9 in E minor op. 95 “From the New World”
Yu-Chien (Benny) Tseng
Taiwanese violinist Yu-Chien (Benny) Tseng is rapidly building an international reputation as an emerging young soloist of enormous promise praised for his “grace, poise, and blistering virtuosity.”
Following his recent German debut with the Saarbrucken Radio Orchestra, the critic warmly praised his performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto: “Classically balanced without showing off; Sensitive, discreet nuances; Highly cultured sound; graceful and playful, relaxed elegance without attitude – Exemplary!”
In July 2015, he received the great honor of winning the top prize for violin at the XV International Tchaikovsky Violin Competition. A student of eminent pedagogues Aaron Rosand and Ida Kavafian at the Curtis Institute of Music, Tseng previously won first prize at both the Singapore International Violin Competition and the Sarasate Violin Competition in Pamplona, Spain.
Yu-Chien Tseng’s international career is already developing very well, and he has played with such orchestras as the Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of Belgium, Taipei Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan, Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra and the Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie. At the Tchaikovsky Competition, his winning performances in the final round featured two of the violin repertoire’s most iconic concertos, by Tchaikovsky and Sibelius. In an earlier round, he received high praise for the elegance and poise in his rendition of Mozart’s final violin concerto (“Turkish”), attracting the attention of Maestro Valery Gergiev. Tseng performed Mozart’s “Turkish” Concerto at the Competition’s Moscow Gala concert with the Mariinsky Orchestra under Gergiev. At the St. Petersburg Gala, Tseng performed the Tchaikovsky concerto. He was also invited to perform under Gergiev at the maestro’s festival in Mikkeli, Finland and will perform both the Tchaikovsky and Brahms concertos with Gergiev and the Munich Philharmonic on their tour of Taiwan in November 2015.
His debut recording (2012) is an album of French violin sonatas (Franck, Ravel and Debussy) on the Fuga Libera Label.
Mr Tseng graduated from the Curtis Institute in spring 2016, but will continue advanced studies in the USA in the season ahead.
In the autumn of 2016, he will make a series of major debut orchestral appearances, including with the London Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic and Czech Philharmonic Orchestras. He will also give recitals in Asia, America and Europe.
He plays the Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu 1732 Ex “Castelbarco-Tarisio,” on loan from the Chi-Mei Culture Foundation, Taiwan.
Mr. Tseng is under the general management of Armstrong Music (Beijing, Hong Kong and London).
Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, Czech Philharmonic
Principal Guest Conductor, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor Laureate, BBC Symphony (London)
Renowned Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek was appointed Music Director and Artistic Director of the Czech Philharmonic in 2012, following on from his successful tenure as Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, of which he is now a Conductor Laureate. He was Chief Conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra (1977–89), Music Director of the Prague Philharmonia (1994–2004), was appointed President of the Prague Spring Festival in 2006. From 2013 to 2017, he was Principal Guest Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.
In opera, he has collaborated with the Vienna State Opera, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opéra National de Paris, the Teatro Real Madrid, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Zurich Opera, and the National Theatre in Prague. He has also conducted and recorded several opera-in-concert presentations with the BBC Symphony, to great acclaim. Confirming his preeminence as the conductor of Janacek, this past season he conducted the Czech Phil in a concert presentation of Jenůfa at the London Royal Festival Hall, as well as in full production the San Francisco Opera. This was followed by a performance of Janacek The Makropulos Case with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms.
Under his leadership the Czech Philharmonic is enjoying unprecedented success both at home in Prague, and on extensive tours. Together they have toured in the past three seasons on three continents, including Europe, Asia and North America. Their recent residency in Vienna at the Musikverein was a great success, and has lead to similar events being planned in other world capitals. The Czech Philharmonic announced in January 2017 that their partnership with Maestro Bělohlávek is now officially extended to 2022!
In addition to his ongoing Prague seasons and touring engagements with the Czech, he continues to perform as a guest conductor with the world’s major orchestras, including recent appearances with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (including at the London Proms), New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Washington National Symphony, and Deutsches Symphony Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Vienna Symphony Orchestra. In the coming season, in addition to major projects with Czech Phil, he looks forward to engagements with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Bayerische Rundfunk Orchestra Munich, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, St Petersburg Philharmonic, and more.
With the Czech Philharmonic, he will conduct a major Asian tour in Autumn 2017 with concerts in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, in addition to appearances on tour in Europe, the highlight of which will be a performance of Janáček Glagolitic Mass at the Salzburg Festival in August 2018.
Jiří Bělohlávek has recorded extensively, with recent projects with the Czech Philharmonic including the complete symphonies and concertos of Dvořák. The series with Decca continues in the coming season, when a major disc of Suk will be recorded.
In 2012 he was awarded an honorary CBE for his services to British music.
The years 1878–1880 are often described as Antonín Dvořák’s “Slavonic period”, as the composer was particularly inspired by Slavonic folk music during that time. It was also over these three years that Dvořák wrote very successful works such as Serenade for Wind Instruments, three Slavonic Rhapsodies, Czech Suite, Symphony No. 6, the first set of Slavonic Dances, Gypsy Songs and a number of compositions for piano. The Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A Minor Op. 53 is without doubt a masterpiece, and not just of Dvořák’s “Slavonic period”. It was written at the Sychrov chateau over the summer of 1879. The composer was evidently pleased by the interest shown by the Berlin publisher Fritz Simrock in another work “in a Slavonic mood”.
Like many of his contemporaries and forerunners, starting with Beethoven, Dvořák contemplated entrusting the solo part to the virtuoso Joseph Joachim, to whom he dedicated the concerto. Having met the virtuoso Dvořák heeded his advice and revised the work, completing the last changes in October 1882. The composer entrusted the first performance to the 26-year-old violinist František Ondříček. The premiere was on 14 October 1883 at Prague’s Žofín, with the National Theatre Orchestra under the baton of Mořic Anger. The work’s success was extraordinary and on his future tours Ondříček was able to introduce it on the world’s concert stages, where it continues to be heard to this day.
In 1892 Dvořák accepted an invitation to the United States for three years and became the director of the National Conservatory in New York. After a short stay overseas, in the winter of 1893 he started working on his new Symphony No. 9 in E minor ‘From the New World’. This composition was conceived in order to prove Dvořák’s theory regarding the use of the characteristic elements of African-American and Native-American music for the emergence of the ‘American national school’, which did not exist at the time of Dvořák’s sojourn in the United States. Experts have debated for more than one hundred years about whether Dvořák used in his symphony specific tunes of Negro songs or not. Dvořák himself gave an ambiguous answer to this question. Once he said, “I’m just finishing a new Sinfonia in E minor. Well, everyone who has instincts must feel the influence of America.” At another time he made a seemingly contradictory statement: “It has been and always will be Czech music.” Another question is to what extent Dvořák could really get to know American music during such a short period of his stay in America, and how much he actually wished to create something for America, which in the beginning treated him so generously and which was certainly very fascinating for him. Structurally, the Ninth Symphony has a very precise, almost textbook form of individual movements. Subconsciously, however, Dvořák must have “quoted” at least one of the familiar tunes since the theme of the first movement is noticeably reminiscent of the Negro spiritual Swing Low Sweet Chariot. The second movement, Largo, might have been inspired by The Song of Hiawatha, while the third movement of the symphony has, according to Dvořák, “something of the Indian character”. In the final fourth movement Dvořák has combined all the themes of the symphony. This perfect management of form in connection with imaginative melodies, harmonies and instrumentation mastery form together a truly unique work of genius. Finally, let us quote from The New York Times in 1893: “We Americans should thank and honor the Bohemian master who has shown us how to build our national school of music.”
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