Pacific Symphony Presents NADJA PLAYS MENDELSSOHN, Now thru 1/11
Orange County, Calif. -- Singing lines of sweet emotion transform into a joyful and abundantly virtuosic showpiece-Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto-which soars in the hands of electrifying violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, who also leads Pacific Symphony from the concertmaster's chair for the remainder of the program. Esteemed as "the heart's jewel" by the great violinist Joseph Joachim, Mendelssohn's concerto is led by Assistant Conductor Alejandro Gutiérrez, who makes his classical series debut during this first concert of the New Year, "Nadja Plays Mendelssohn." Described as an artist whose talent "will make you hang breathlessly on every note" (Los Angeles Times), Salerno-Sonnenberg stands out for her passionate and powerful sound, her risk-taking musical prowess and her dynamic presence. Apart from being an international soloist, she is also the music director of the New Century Chamber Orchestra and founder of record label NSS Music. Salerno-Sonnenberg leads the Symphony in two pieces that emphasize the strings: Rodion Shchedrin's fiery "Carmen" Suite based on Bizet's opera and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's "Prologue and Variations."
"The Mendelssohn concerto is special because it stands the test of time. I am not exaggerating when I say that I find something new in it every single time I play it. And I have played it thousands of times!" says Salerno-Sonnenberg.
"Nadja Plays Mendelssohn" takes place tonight through Saturday, Jan. 9-11, 2014, at
8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, and includes a preview talk with Alan Chapman starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25-$185; for more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
In addition to the concert, Salerno-Sonnenberg is giving a master class (as part of the Symphony's three-event project, "OC Front and Center") to three advanced violinists from Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles, Chapman University and the adult music community on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, from 2-4 p.m. in the Samueli Theater. The event is free, but due to limited seating, tickets are required. To reserve a seat, please visit www.PacificSymphony.org/tickets/concert/Violin_Master_Class.
"Typically, in a master class situation, I have about a half hour with the student. Not a lot of time, but enough to spot what I think is the biggest element of their playing that needs help," says Salerno-Sonnenberg. "And that is what I try to do. Hone in on that one thing and try to make a difference."
Mendelssohn, a musical genius from childhood, wrote some of his best known works in his teens, but completed his last orchestral composition, the Violin Concerto, at age 36, six years after famously hearing the opening line in his mind. He wrote to his friend Ferdinand David, "I would like to write a violin concerto for you next winter. One in E Minor runs through my head, the beginning of which gives me no peace." Mendelssohn wrote the three movements to be played attacca, as one continuous flow of music. The sweet melodies and sensitive scoring tug at the emotions, while leaving the audience uplifted by the bravura display of this virtuosic showpiece.
Being the first female composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1983, Zwilich combines skill and inspiration, illustrating a hopeful spirit that gives her a unique musical voice. With a vigorous exterior and ravishing lyricism throughout, "Prologue and Variations" was described by New York Daily News as "a taut and succinct work tackling many deep emotions that all come across with confident expressive authority."
"If I could only use one word to describe the Zwilich piece, it would be...cool," says Salerno-Sonnenberg. "I love that it demands everything from a string player...variety of sound, Maybe the singularly best arrangement I have ever heard. Not only are you hearing all the spectacular tunes from that amazing opera, but this arrangement is ultra moving and exciting. Knocks it right out of the ballpark."