January 7, 2019
Concerts Friday, Saturday and Sunday, February 15 – 17
Madison, Wis. – Internationally-recognized violinist James Ehnes returns to Overture Hall to perform the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO). The program opens with a performance of John Harbison’s The Most Often Used Chords, and closes with Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
This program is a continuation of Music Director John DeMain’s 25th anniversary season. “Mussorgsky’s masterpiece explores the colors of the orchestra — the correlation of an artist’s visual medium through the colors of sound and music. And its finale The Great Gate of Kiev, is one of classical music’s greatest hits,” Maestro DeMain said. “James Ehnes is a violinist who is completely to my taste. With an absolutely gorgeous sound and consummate technique, he goes to the heart of the music. He will approach the Brahms violin concerto as a violinist’s violinist, adored by the public, by his colleagues and by me, for the integrity in his playing.” DeMain continues, “We celebrate the 80th birthday of the internationally-renowned (and Madison resident) composer John Harbison, with the first performance by the MSO of his delightful composition, The Most Often Used Chords.”
Performances will be held on Friday, February 15th at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, February 16th at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, February 17th at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall, located at 201 State Street.
John Harbison’s The Most Often Used Chords is a satirical piece of “anti-art art,” or “found object,” art. According to Harbison, the found object that inspired this symphony (originally titled Fli Accordi Piu Usati) were the pre-printed “Fundamentals of Music” pages that he noticed in an Italian music-writing notebook. The work was originally composed in 1992 for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
Written in 1878, the Brahms Violin Concerto was dedicated to his friend Joseph Joachim and premiered in 1879 in Leipzig, with Joachim soloing and Brahms conducting. An equal partnership between soloist and ensemble is on full display in this concerto; it is not a piece in which the orchestra serves as mere backdrop. Rather, the violinist and orchestra are a team, collaborating and interacting to recount an elegant and nuanced musical drama.
Originally written as a piano composition, Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky was composed as a memorial to his friend, the Russian artist Viktor Hartmann, who died in 1873. The suite consists of 10 movements — each a musical depiction of 10 paintings by Hartmann. These movements are interspersed with a recurring promenade theme that represents a visitor strolling through the exhibition. The arrangement by Maurice Ravel, produced in 1922, represents a virtuoso effort by a master composer. His instrumental colors — a trumpet solo for the opening Promenade, dark woodwind tones, the piccolo and high strings for the children’s “chicks in shells” — are widely admired. The influence of Ravel’s version may often be discerned in subsequent versions of the suite.
About James Ehnes
James Ehnes has established himself as one of the foremost violinists of his generation, noted by Vivien Schweitzer of The New York Times for his consistent “virtuosity and burning tone…displayed to a fine effect.” Ehnes’s long list of orchestral appearances includes the Boston Pops, Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, London Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, and the DSO Berlin.
Mr. Ehnes has an extensive discography and has won many awards for his recordings including a Grammy Award for his live recording of the Elgar Concerto with Sir Andrew Davis and the Philharmonia Orchestra. His recording of the Korngold, Barber and Walton violin concertos won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance and a JUNO award for Best Classical Album of the Year. Mr. Ehnes graduated from The Juilliard School in 1997, winning the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music. He is currently the Artistic Director of the Seattle Chamber Music Society.
Concert and Ticket Details
The lobby opens 90 minutes prior to each concert. One hour before each performance, Randal Swiggum will lead a 30-minute Prelude Discussion in Overture Hall to enhance concertgoers’ understanding and listening experience. It is free to ticketholders. The Symphony recommends concert attendees arrive early for each performance to make sure they have time to pass through Overture Center’s security stations, and so they can experience the Prelude Discussion. Program notes for the concerts are available online:
- Single Tickets are $18-$93 each and are on sale now at: https://madisonsymphony.org/ehnes through the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street, or by calling the Box Office at (608) 258-4141. Fees apply to online/phone sales.
- Groups of 10 or more can save 25% by calling the MSO office at (608) 257-3734. For more information, visit, https://www.madisonsymphony.org/groups.
- Student rush tickets can be purchased in person on the day of the concert at the Overture Center Box Office at 201 State Street. Students must show a valid student ID and can receive up to two $15 or $20 tickets. More information is at: https://www.madisonsymphony.org/studentrush
- Seniors age 62 and up receive 20% savings on advance and day-of-concert ticket purchases in select areas of the hall.
- Flex-ticket booklets of 10 vouchers for 18-19 symphony subscription concerts are available. Learn more at: https://madisonsymphony.org/flex
Discounted seats are subject to availability, and discounts may not be combined.
ABOUT THE MADISON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
The Madison Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 93rd season in 2018–2019 and its 25th season under the leadership of Music Director John DeMain. The MSO has grown to be one of America’s leading regional orchestras, providing Madison and south-central Wisconsin with cultural and educational opportunities to interact with great masterworks and top-tier guest artists from around the world. Find more information at madisonsymphony.org
Major funding for the February concerts is provided by: The Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club, BMO Harris Bank, Boardman & Clark LLP, Capitol Lakes, Dr. Robert and Linda Graebner, Marvin J. Levy, and Cyrena and Lee Pondrom. Additional funding is provided by Martha and Charles Casey, and the Wisconsin Arts Board, with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.
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