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8.550329 - SIBELIUS: Violin Concerto / SINDING: Legende / HALVORSEN: Norwegian Dances
Jean Sibelius (1865 - 1957)
Johan Svendsen (1840 - 1911)
Johan Halvorsen (1864 - 1935)
Christian Sinding (1856 - 1941)
The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius was born in 1865, the son of a doctor. The language and culture of his family was Swedish, but Sibelius himself was to enter wholeheartedly into the world of Finland, with its different linguistic and literary traditions. It was this world that he translated into musical terms in his remarkable seven symphonies and in a series of tone poems that echo the ancient saga's. He was trained as a musician at first in Helsinki, then in Berlin and Vienna, and had early ambitions as a violinist, at a time when the first professional orchestra in Finland was being established. Narrowly failing to win the position of Professor of Music at the University of Helsinki in 1896, he was awarded a government stipend for ten years, converted thereafter into a pension for life. This was never enough to meet his needs, hardly tempered by a certain inherited improvidence. His father had had a gift for extravagance, and had left his family bankrupt at the time of his early death. For the last 27 years of his long life Sibelius virtually ceased to work as a composer. His position was unassailable, but he felt himself out of tune with the contemporary world of music, as it had developed.
Sibelius completed the first version of his Violin Concerto in 1903 and it was first performed in Helsinki with indifferent results. The concerto was revised and successfully performed in Berlin in 1905 by Karl Halir, under the direction of Richard Strauss. The choice of soloist, however, offended the violinist Willy Burmester, who had originally been promised the work. The earlier version of the concerto was technically ambitious, and as a violinist Sibelius had needed no help with the lay-out of the solo part, although this presented technical difficulties that were beyond his own command. The later version made necessary revisions in the solo part and it is in this definitive form that the work has become a standard part of the solo repertoire.
The concerto opens with no lengthy orchestral introduction, the soloist making an almost immediate appearance, accompanied by a Scandinavian mist of muted strings. Although the movement is in the traditional tripartite form, the central development section is replaced by a cadenza-like passage for the violinist. The lyrical slow movement brings a deeply romantic melody, the soloist proceeding to weave his own fantasies above the orchestra. There follows a finale which the composer once described as a danse macabre, providing an opportunity for virtuoso display in a work in which the solo part is generally intertwined with the orchestral texture.
Johan Svendsen was born in Christiania, the modern Oslo, in 1840, the son of an army musician. He was trained as a violinist, although his family background led to his enrolment as a clarinettist in an army band. Norway, ruled until 1814 by Denmark and under the continued cultural influence of that country, was from 1814 under the domination of Sweden until the dissolution of the union in 1905 and the accession of a Danish prince as king. Svendsen's career coincided with that of Grieg, with whom he was closely associated, as a composer, conductor and performer, in the growing romantic nationalism that shaped the course of Norwegian music in the later years of the nineteenth century. Like Grieg, he studied in Leipzig and thereafter spent considerable periods abroad, finally settling in Copenhagen, where he died in 1911. His lyrical Romance for violin and orchestra was written in 1881 at a time when he was living in Christiania. It marked the virtual end of his career as a composer. His later years were devoted primarily to conducting. Here he had won considerable distinction and in 1883 was appointed conductor of the Danish Royal Opera in Copenhagen, a position he occupied until his retirement in 1908.
The Norwegian violinist Johan Halvorsen was born in 1864 and studied at the Conservatory in Stockholm. He became leader of the Bergen Orchestra in 1887 and later moved to Leipzig to study with Adolph Brodsky, the violinist who gave the first performance of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, and was later to lead the Halle Orchestra and head the Royal Manchester College of Music. Halvorsen's career took him to Aberdeen as an orchestral leader and later to Berlin and to Liege for further study. He later became conductor of the National Theatre in Christiania. His wife was a niece of Grieg, a composer who exercised a strong influence over his compositions. In addition to incidental music for the theatre and a well known pair of arrangements of Handel for violin and viola, Halvorsen wrote a number of works of direct Norwegian inspiration, including the Norwegian Dances of 1915. He also transcribed music he heard played on the traditional Norwegian hardanger fiddle, raw material used by Grieg.
Christian Sinding's reputation as a composer has suffered unfairly through the excessive popularity of his piano piece The Rustle of Spring. Born in 1856 at Kongsberg, he studied the violin in Christiania, before moving, like a number of his Norwegian compatriots, to Leipzig, where he turned from the violin to composition. Influenced strongly by the neo-German school of Liszt and Wagner, he established himself in Norway as a composer only second to Grieg. He wrote his popular Legende for violin and orchestra in 1900, one of a number of such compositions, in addition to his three Violin Concertos.
Dong-Suk Kang Hailed for his artistry, virtuosity and charismatic presence on stage, the Korean violinist Dong-Suk Kang enjoys an international career spanning performances with major orchestras, at festivals and in solo recital. He first came to the attention of the concertgoing public when he won both the San Francisco Symphony Competition and the Merriweather Post Competition in Washington, D.C., and subsequently went on to win top prizes in several international competitions, among them the Montreal, the Carl Flesch in London and the Queen Elizabeth in Brussels.
Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava) The Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), the oldest symphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929 at the instance of Milos Ruppeldt and Oskar Nedbal, prominent personalities in the sphere of music. The orchestra was first conducted by the Prague conductor František Dyk and in the course of the past fifty years of its existence has worked under the batons of several prominent Czech and Slovak conductors. Ondrej Lenard was appointed its conductor in 1970 and in 1977 its conductor-in-chief. The orchestra has recently given a number of successful concerts both at home and abroad, in West and East Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, and Great Britain.
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