Leila Josefowicz Plays John Adams's 'Scheherazade.2'

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Alan Gilbert leads the New York Philharmonic in the world premiere of John Adams’s Scheherazade.2 — a dramatic symphony for violin and orchestra — performed by violinist Leila Josefowicz, for whom it is written and dedicated. The piece is a New York Philharmonic co-commission with the Royal Concertgebouw and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Adams has said that the four-movement Scheherazade.2 was inspired not only by Rimsky-Korsakov's famous symphonic poem but also the brutality that confronts modern women in the Middle East, and elsewhere. Josefowicz has long been a champion of Adams's work, notably his 1993 Violin Concerto.

The program also includes two early 20th-century Russian works, Stravinsky’s Petrushka (the original 1911 version) and Lyadov’s The Enchanted Lake.

Program playlist:
Liadov: The Enchanted Lake
Stravinsky: Petrouchka
Adams: Scheherazade.2

Comments [3]

Les from Miami, Florida

Maestro Gilbert's flair for programming is again in evidence. The much neglected "The Enchanted Lake" of Liadov proved a colorful compliment "curtain-raiser" though stylistically contrasted to Stravinsky's "Petrouchka" that followed. Rimsky-Korsakoff seemed to be ever-present in this concert, if not by quotation, then by example. It's interesting to hear how two pupils of Rimsky-Korsakoff set about their tasks and achieved their respective goals. I was delighted and, quite honestly, amazed at the balance and detail therefore easily ascertainable from the "Petrouchka" performance. From the opening Shrovetide Fair with its polyrhytms and polymeters to the Dance of the Coachmen, the orchestra when used as an aggregate was texturally clear. The sections featuring soloists were outstanding, such as the Waltz, "The Ballerina and the Moor" with bassoon, flute and piston cornet, "Petrouchka and the Bear" with solo tuba. My one equivocation is the rather wide vibrato in the flute cadenza before the "Russian Dance", labeled "Le Charlatan Joue De La Flu^te". My paragons for "Petrouchka" are Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra's Victor recording from 1937 with William Kincaid's tight vibrato, premiere conductor Pierre Monteux's Boston Symphony RCA Victor recording from 1959 with Doriot Anthony Dwyer and Dimitri Mitropoulos's Phil.-Symph. of N.Y. recording with John Wummer on Columbia whose recording date I don't know. The textbook-famous "Petrouchka chord" of C major and F Sharp major as first played by the two clarinets was just the right dynamic, I thought; and the unison piccolo trumpet in D and second trumpet in B flat that play fff (fortississimo) six bars before the conclusion were beyond praise. Parenthetically, I'm always reminded of Rimsky's "Dance of the Buffoons" from "Snegurochka" when I hear the cornets and trumpets "answered" by the trombones and tuba in the "Les Deguises" section. It's an honor for a composer to write and dedicate a work to one. Leila Josefowicz played masterfully I thought, her fullness of tone and evenness of vibrato (always any violinist's desiderata in my opinion) ever-present. Of the work, I was interested in and quite taken by the second, the last movement and the third movement, in that order. I confess to being uninterested in the first movement completely. The second movement had a Messiean-like sonority within which the solo violin wove a mournful tapestry. The third movement made use of short fragments sounded first on the brass and propelled the dramaturgy throughout. The elegaic mood of the second movement returned in the final movement. I must disagree with Mr. Adams's remark about Rimsky-Korsakoff's "Scherazade" being somewhat na"ive. I think it's forthright, evocative and spellbinding. That aside, I wonder why no mention was made in the program notes about the use of what sounded to me like a cymbalom! It was used sparingly: at first hearing it sounded like it was used at phrase endings.

Apr. 26 2015 02:59 PM

Once again, Adams embarrassed himself by equating what happens to women in the Middle East with comments made on talk radio.

Apr. 24 2015 07:11 AM
Bernie from UWS

Fantastic. Thank you, WQXR, for broadcasting this important work.

Apr. 23 2015 10:35 PM

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