At its second concert at the George Enescu Festival, the Czech Philharmonic and Cristian Macelaru will be joined by the violinist Nikolaj Znaider.
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Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77
Symphony No. 4, H. 305
Nikolaj Znaider performs at the highest level as both conductor and virtuoso violin soloist with the world’s most-distinguished orchestras. He has been Principal Guest Conductor of the Mariinsky Orchestra Saint Petersburg since 2010, and was previously Principal Guest Conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.
Following a triumphant return to the BBC Proms with the Staatskapelle Dresden and Christian Thielemann, 2016/2017 season sees Znaider embark on a new project, recording all of the Mozart violin concertos, directed from the violin with the London Symphony. He has a particularly strong relationship with the LSO; an orchestra he conducts and performs as soloist with every season.
Both as conductor and as soloist, Znaider is interested in deepening his connections with key orchestras where he feels a special bond, working regularly with orchestras such as the Staatskapelle Dresden, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw, Detroit Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Washington National Symphony, and Munich Philharmonic orchestras.
Znaider’s extensive discography includes the Nielsen Concerto with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, Elgar Concerto in B minor with the late Sir Colin Davis and the Staatskapelle Dresden, award-winning recordings of the Brahms and Korngold concertos with Valery Gergiev and the Vienna Philharmonic, the Beethoven and Mendelssohn concertos with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic, the Prokofiev Concerto No. 2 and Glazunov Concerto with Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony, and the Mendelssohn Concerto on DVD with Riccardo Chailly and the Gewanghaus Orchestra. Znaider has also recorded the complete works of Brahms for violin and piano with Yefim Bronfman.
He is passionate about supporting the next generation of musical talent and spent ten years as Founder and Artistic Director of the annual Nordic Music Academy summer school.
Nikolaj Znaider plays the “Kreisler” Guarnerius “del Gesu” 1741 on extended loan to him by The Royal Danish Theater through the generosity of the VELUX Foundation and the Knud Højgaard Foundation.
Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959) avoided composing symphonies for a long time. In the musical environment of the 1920s and 1930s in Paris, in which he was firmly established in his youth, the symphony was considered a form of Romantic relic and local composers tried to write for less common instrumental ensembles. Martinů composed his first symphony as late as at the age of fifty-two in America; from that time on he returned to this form almost every year. Of the total number of his six symphonies, the most popular and most frequently performed is Symphony No. 4. Martinů created it in the spring of 1945, full of joy and optimism about the end of war hardships and in the hope that he would soon return to his homeland. He was convinced that this was his last major composition in the American exile before his imminent homecoming to Czechoslovakia. Unfortunately, the subsequent events showed that these expectations were in vain.
The joyful first movement Poco moderato is reminiscent of a Baroque suite by being structured into two sections. However, the work with motifs and harmonic processes are far from Baroque music and stands with both feet in the realm of contemporary music. The second movement has the form of a fierce dance scherzo with the contrasting lyrical middle section. It is followed by the dreamy, heartfelt Largo of the third movement. The optimistic tone of the whole symphony is accentuated by the final Poco allegro.
Johannes Brahms started work on his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, Op. 77 in 1878. He dedicated the piece to his friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim (1831–1907), who was born in Kopčany near Bratislava (in today’s Slovakia). Brahms first heard the young violinist in 1848, when he performed Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in Brahms’s native city, Hamburg. Five years later, the two artists met again in Hanover, and began a life-long friendship. Though only two years Brahms’s senior, Joachim was already renowned in the musical world as a performing artist. It was he who introduced Brahms to Robert Schumann, who predicted that the young Hamburg-born composer would have a great future and praised his talent by declaring that he would take music on “new paths”.
When composing, Brahms placed his full trust in Joachim’s advice. The cadenza at the end of the first movement of the concerto, then still an opportunity for soloists to display their technical brilliance, was left entirely to Joachim’s own imagination. The structure of the concerto itself, however, was strictly of Brahms’s own making, and the work that resulted defies the conventions of the virtuoso concertos of its time. Brahms goes beyond the conception of an instrumental concerto – where the technical and expressive artistry of the performer play the main role – towards a symphonic conception. The work is not remarkable for its virtuoso brilliance; the solo part is integrated into the orchestral sound. For instance, the second movement is opened by a solo from the oboe, while the soloist waits a relatively long time for their entry. The first movement has much in common with the first movement of Brahms’s second symphony, composed concurrently; indeed the two sections share the same key. The second movement of the concerto continues to impress today with its lyricism, while the third, particularly, with its “Hungarian” character, is typical of Brahms.
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