Hugh Wolff, Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Director of Orchestras, conducts the NEC Philharmonia. Quan Yuan, NEC student chosen through the annual concerto competition, will be the soloist.
Berlioz Music from Romeo and Juliet
Introduction: Combat and Tumult
Romeo Alone; The Capulets' Ball
Scherzo: Queen Mab
Romeo and Juliet's Tomb
Benjamin Britten Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 15
Quan Yuan, violin
Composed in 1938-39 as the first work written during the pacifist Britten’s sojourn in the United States, the Violin Concerto Op. 15 was given its premiere in 1940 by the New York Philharmonic, conductor John Barbirolli, and violinist Antonio Brosa. Britten made some revisions to it in the 1950s.
War, whether the escalating hostilities between the Allies and Nazis or, possibly, the Spanish Civil War, is the theme of the work.
Some commentators have identified the influence of Prokofiev and Shostakovich on the music but it is the Baroque masters, Purcell and Bach, (who Britten revered and often emulated) whose model of contrapuntal mastery exerts the more powerful inspiration. The first movement, for example, is built upon a rhythmic ostinato and the finale is a passacaglia or set of variations over a ground bass in the Baroque tradition.
Not often heard during Britten’s lifetime, the Concerto has undergone something of a revival in recent years, with several recordings featuring committed soloists. One of them, Janine Jensen was interviewed in Violinist.com about the Britten:
Playing it with orchestra, she said, "one experiences the incredible strength of it. You're really giving everything through the whole piece, it's such a tension from beginning to end. And everybody has such an important role to play."
It’s very demanding on the soloist, but…"it is written so well, it's really an amazing piece to play, even with its difficulties. One doesn't think about it during the performance because one is so taken by the music and especially, for me, the end of the piece. The whole coda –this is the most impressive moment. It starts like a prayer, but it ends in a kind of scream, it's incredible. Every time one plays it, one can't move afterwards, physically and emotionally."