Less than two weeks before the arrival of the year 2020, we are beginning a cycle in celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven. One could hardly imagine a more powerful beginning than a performance of his Violin Concerto and Third Symphony. Leonidas Kavakos, who opened our 122nd season in exciting fashion, is returning as a violinist and a conductor. Last year, he recorded Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, which he conducted himself. The programmes of the concerts in Munich were similar to the Prague performance, except that on the second half, Leonidas Kavakos conducted the Seventh Symphony, while he will be conducting the Eroica at the Rudolfinum. Unlike competitions between performers, rankings of the popularity of compositions are not usual in the classical music world. An exception was a survey by the BBC Music Magazine in 2018, for which most of the respondents were conductors. And can you guess which symphony won? The Eroica defeated Beethoven’s Ninth, which was second, and Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, which finished in third place!
The Czech public is familiar with Kavakos as an exceptional violinist, but not as a conductor, but he has already led performances with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, just to name a few. For his recording of Beethoven’s violin sonatas, Leonidas Kavakos won the ECHO Klassik award, and in 2014 the magazine Gramophone named him “Artist of the Year”.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Violin Concerto In D Major, Op. 61
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 55 (“Eroica”)
Leonidas Kavakos is recognized across the world as a violinist and artist of rare quality, known at the highest level for his virtuosity, superb musicianship and the integrity of his playing. He works with the world’s greatest orchestras and conductors and is an exclusive artist with Decca Classics.
The three important mentors in his life have been Stelios Kafantaris, Josef Gingold and Ferenc Rados. By the age of 21, Kavakos had already won three major competitions: the Sibelius Competition in 1985, and the Paganini and Naumburg Competitions in 1988. This success led him to recording the original Violin Concerto by Sibelius, the first recording of this work in history, which won the Gramophone’s ‘Concerto of the Year’ Award in 1991. Kavakos was also the winner of the Léonie Sonning Music Prize 2017.
In the 2017/2018 season he is Artist in Residence at both the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Vienna Musikverein. He will tour Europe with the Filarmonica della Scala and Chailly, and Europe and Asia with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Blomstedt. Elsewhere, he will perform widely as soloist with orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Kavakos will also give the European premiere of Lera Auerbach’s NYx: Fractured Dreams (Violin Concerto No. 4) with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.
In 2017 Kavakos has embarked on a European recital tour with Yuja Wang, and in 2018 he will tour North America with Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax. He will also appear in recital with his regular chamber music partner Enrico Pace in Asia and Europe.
Leonidas Kavakos has recently built a strong profile as a conductor, and has conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Filarmonica Teatro La Fenice and Budapest Festival Orchestra. In the 2017/2018 season he will conduct the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and Vienna Symphony.
As an exclusive recording artist with Decca Classics, his first release was Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas with Enrico Pace (2013), which was awarded the ECHO Klassik ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’. This was followed by Brahms’s Violin Concerto with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Riccardo Chailly (2013), Brahms’s Violin Sonatas with Yuja Wang (2014) and the CD Virtuoso (2016). In 2014, he was awarded the ‘Artist of the Year’ by Gramophone. In September 2017, Leonidas Kavakos together with Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax will release their recording of Brahms’s Trios for Sony Classical.
Leonidas Kavakos’s earlier discography encompasses recordings for BIS, ECM and subsequently for Sony Classical, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto (ECHO Klassik ‘Best Concerto Recording’) and Mozart’s Violin Concertos with Camerata Salzburg, which he conducted and in which also played the solo part.
Born and brought up in a musical family in Athens and still resident there, Kavakos curates an annual violin and chamber-music masterclass in Athens, attracting violinists and ensembles from all over the world and reflecting his deep commitment to the handing on of musical knowledge and traditions. Part of this tradition is the art of violin and bow-making, which Kavakos regards to be a great mystery and, to this day, an undisclosed secret. He plays the ‘Willemotte’ Stradivarius violin of 1734 and owns modern violins made by F. Leonhard, S.P. Greiner, E. Haahti and D. Bagué.
The first years of the nineteenth century represented a critical period in Ludwig van Beethoven’s artistic development. The creative energy that allowed Beethoven to overcome depression caused by incipient deafness was reflected in his Symphony No. 3 in E flat major Op. 55 “Eroica”, whose originality and artistic ambition surpassed everything that he composed before.
The inspiration for the work was provided by the figure of Napoleon Bonaparte, who embodied for Beethoven his own democratic and anti-monarchist ideals. When, however, Bonaparte had himself elected Emperor in November 1803, the disappointed Beethoven crossed out the dedication. The new dedicatee of the work was his patron, Prince Joseph Franz Maximilian von Lobkowicz, at whose chateau in Jezeří (Eisenberg) the work, which continued to carry the title Buonaparte, was first performed in summer 1804. When published in 1806, it was entitled Heroic symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man. The first public performance was on 7 April 1805 at the Theater an der Wien.
Beethoven employed in Eroica a number of techniques and elements previously unusual in the symphonic genre, by the means of which he sought a tighter form for his symphony and a continuous gradation from the beginning to the end. These compositional devices later became the hallmarks of his style; most distinctive are the motivic interrelations among the various musical themes used in the individual movements and the elevation of the coda to a veritable climax of the movement in terms of its musical content. Indeed, in the Third Symphony the coda becomes the second development thanks to the richness of its thematic work and unexpected length. Beethoven also introduces development into movements that are not composed in sonata form: in the Funeral March, which replaces what is usually a slow movement, and in the Finale, a set of variations that also employs elements of the rondo form.
Subscription A, B
Wed–Fri / 6:30 p.m. / Rudolfinum – Suk Hall
Thu–Fri / 6:30 p.m. / Rudolfinum – Suk Hall
Sat / 2 p.m. / Rudolfinum – Suk Hall
Pre-concert talks are offered free of charge as a bonus before the evening concerts of the A, B and C subscription series. They are given by conductors, soloists and members of the Czech Philharmonic, as well as musicologists and music writers who take part in discussions or lectures which will prepare for the evening concert.
They are presented by Eva Hazdrová-Kopecká, Pavel Ryjáček or Petr Kadlec.
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