Post image for Music Preview: SALONEN CONDUCTS TCHAIKOVSKY AND BARTOK (LA Phil at Disney Hall)

by Tony Frankel on October 17, 2019

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles


As you may know, Composer and Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen is off to the Bay Area to become the San Francisco Symphony’s new music director. The Fab Fin will be leading a few concerts before he leaves. This weekend, he serves up the world premiere of his new work, Castor, a sister work to his short tone poem, Pollux, which I reviewed last year, writing “if the Symbolist Debussy and Modernist Salonen had a love child (Debusalonen!), it would be this beautiful, touching tonic that was great to listen to.”

You will also meet the wunderkind violinist Daniel Lozakovich, who has the music world abuzz, performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. It’s astounding to have heard countless performances of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto — both live and in recordings — and still look forward to a newer interpretation promising to be exciting, inventive, and breathtaking. Salonen, who conducts the LA Phil at Disney Hall this weekend, has himself tapped the up-and-coming soon-to-be star violinist to play the Tchaikovsky.

Swedish violinist Lozakovich (with a Belarusian father and Kyrgyz mother) recently took me aback with his last year’s release on Deutsche Grammophon (which signed him at 15) of Bach Concertos and a Partita. The fierce soloist is powerful, glowing, earnest, and sparkling. It’s a flawless presentation, engrossing and stirring. And you will get to witness this terrific violinist perform the timeless, ever-popular Violin Concerto with Salonen this October 18 and 19, 2019, at Disney Hall. Oh, and did I forget to mention that Mr. Lozakovich is all of 18 years old?

Equally inconceivable is that Tchaikovsky’s ultra-Romantic Violin Concerto — ebullient and heartfelt with unforgettable melody, drama, tenderness, and flashy brilliance — was not well-received at first. Even the work’s dedicatee, Leopold Auer, would not premiere it, citing awkward solos that are too difficult to be worth the trouble. Tchaikovsky had to wait almost four years after its completion in 1878 to premiere it, but that 1881 performance with the Vienna Philharmonic received scathing reviews. Vienna’s most influential critic, Eduard Hanslick, wrote, “Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto brings to us for the first time the horrid idea that there may be music that stinks in the ear.”

Iosif Kotek with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1877Yet it wasn’t long before the Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 became one of the most cherished violin works in the repertoire. “It’s easy to see why,” wrote violinist Augustin Hadelich, who’s been performing the piece since he was 12 years old. “It’s filled with beautiful, romantic melodies, it’s exciting and virtuosic, and its emotions are deeply felt and intense.”

Since Tchaikovsky was not a violinist, he sought the advice of Josif Kotek on the completion of the solo part, considered one of the most technically difficult works for the violin. “It’s often been speculated that Tchaikovsky had a romantic affair with Kotek,” continues Hadelich. “The music seems to reflect that — it sounds like it was written by a man who is happily and passionately in love. I think his concerto is a happy work, and although there are some bittersweet, aching moments (for example in the slow movement, Canzonetta), it never takes a dark or tragic turn.” Tchaikovsky wanted to dedicate the concerto to Kotek, but felt constrained by the gossip this would undoubtedly cause about the true nature of his relationship with the younger man.

The orchestra will conclude with Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra (1943). Bartók deserves more of a renaissance and praise in North America similar to the reverence the Europeans have given him for his impact on both popular music and film and television scores: Artists like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, and composers such as James Newton Howard and Bernard Herrmann borrow a great deal from his work.

photos courtesy of LA Phil

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Salonen Conducts Tchaikovsky and Bartok
Esa-Pekken Salonen, conductor
Daniel Lozakovich, violin
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Friday, October 18, 2019, at 8 PM
Saturday, October 18, 2019, at 8 PM
for tickets, call 323.850.2000 or visit LA Phil

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