Eric Paetkau, Music Director
James Ehnes, violin
An opening night to be remembered!
One of the world’s greatest artists, James Ehnes makes his long awaited return to the SSO stage to perform one of the great masterworks of the repertoire.
Canadian Kevin Lau paints a picture of his adopted home in this new work written as part of the Canada 150 Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Sesquies project.
Dvorak’s monumental 8th symphony full of sweeping melodies and romantic charm
For Home – Kevin Lau
Violin Concerto in D Major Op. 61 – Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 8 in G Major Op. 88 – Antonin Dvorak
Known for his virtuosity and probing musicianship, violinist James Ehnes has performed in over 35 countries on five continents, appearing regularly in the world’s great concert halls and with many of the most celebrated orchestras and conductors.
In the 2016-2017 season James continues his cross-Canada recital tour in celebration of his 40th birthday, performs the complete Bach Sonatas and Partitas in Stresa, Montreux, Los Angeles, Liverpool, and Amsterdam, and joins the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on a tour of China and the National Arts Centre Orchestra on a tour of Eastern Canada. James also holds artist residencies with the Melbourne Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, and the Scotia Festival, undertakes two tours with the Ehnes Quartet, and leads the winter and summer festivals of the Seattle Chamber Music Society, where he is the Artistic Director.
New and upcoming CD releases include a disc of works by Debussy, Respighi, Elgar and Sibelius as well as a recording of Beethoven’s Sonatas Nos. 6 and 9 (“Kreutzer”) with pianist Andrew Armstrong, the Sibelius and Schubert “Death and the Maiden” quartets with the Ehnes Quartet, and the complete works of Beethoven for violin and orchestra with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Andrew Manze. His recordings have been honored with many international awards and prizes, including a GRAMMY, a Gramophone, and 11 JUNO Awards.
James Ehnes was born in 1976 in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada. He began violin studies at the age of four, and at age nine became a protégé of the noted Canadian violinist Francis Chaplin. He studied with Sally Thomas at the Meadowmount School of Music and from 1993 to 1997 at The Juilliard School, winning the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music upon his graduation.
Mr. Ehnes first gained national recognition in 1987 as winner of the Grand Prize in Strings at the Canadian Music Competition. The following year he won the First Prize in Strings at the Canadian Music Festival, the youngest musician ever to do so. At age 13, he made his major orchestral solo debut with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal.
He has won numerous awards and prizes, including the first-ever Ivan Galamian Memorial Award, the Canada Council for the Arts’ Virginia Parker Prize, and a 2005 Avery Fisher Career Grant. James has received honorary doctorates from Brandon University and the University of British Columbia and in 2007 he became the youngest person ever elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada. In 2010 the Governor General of Canada appointed James a Member of the Order of Canada, and in 2013 he was named an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music, limited to a select group of 300 living distinguished musicians.
James Ehnes plays the “Marsick” Stradivarius of 1715. He currently lives in Bradenton, Florida with his family.
For Home – Kevin Lau
For Home is my musical tribute to Canada. Before writing this piece, I devoted considerable thought to the question of what it meant to be Canadian; I pondered its history, its culture, and in particular my own experience as a young immigrant adjusting to life in a new world. The simple, folk-like melody which recurs throughout the brief course of this work represents my best attempt at capturing feelings too complex for words.
While composing this piece, it became clear to me that I could not convey my sense of gratitude for something so abstract without drawing on the particular. And so I drew upon my experience of meeting and falling in love with the woman who would eventually become my wife. The D major middle section of this brief work quotes from a piece of music I composed specifically for her; for us, and for our home.
Violin Concerto in D Major – Beethoven
Beethoven wrote the concerto for his colleague Franz Clement, a leading violinist of the day, who had earlier given him helpful advice on his opera Fidelio. The work was premiered on 23 December 1806 in the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, the occasion being a benefit concert for Clement. The first printed edition (1808) was also dedicated to Franz Clement.
It is believed that Beethoven finished the solo part so late that Clement had to sight-read part of his performance. Perhaps to express his annoyance, or to show what he could do when he had time to prepare, Clement is said to have interrupted the concerto between the first and second movements with a solo composition of his own, played on one string of the violin held upside down; however, other sources claim that he did play such a piece but only at the end of the performance.
The premiere was not a success, and the concerto was little performed in the following decades.
The work was revived in 1844, well after Beethoven’s death, with a performance by the then 12-year-old violinist Joseph Joachim with the orchestra of the London Philharmonic Society conducted by Felix Mendelssohn. Ever since, it has been one of the most important works of the violin concerto repertoire, and is frequently performed and recorded today.
Symphony No 8 – Dvorak
Dvořák composed and orchestrated the symphony within the two-and-a-half-month period from 26 August to 8 November 1889 at his summer resort in Vysoká u Příbramě, Bohemia. The score was composed on the occasion of his admission to Prague Academy and dedicated “To the Bohemian Academy of Emperor Franz Joseph for the Encouragement of Arts and Literature, in thanks for my election.” Dvořák conducted the premiere in Prague on 2 February 1890.
Dvořák tried to achieve a marked difference to his Symphony No. 7, a stormy romantic work: “different from the other symphonies, with individual thoughts worked out in a new way”. The Eighth is cheery and lyrical and draws its inspiration more from the Bohemian folk music that Dvořák loved.
The Eighth Symphony is performed fairly frequently, but not nearly as often as the more famous Ninth Symphony (“From the New World”). In this regard it enjoys a similar status to the Seventh Symphony.