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Genius Award-Winning Violinist Plays Beethoven; Adds Her Own Compositional Talent

January 09, 2009

Leila Josefowicz Performs with RPO along with a Battling Brass Spectacular

Rochester, NY – Violinist Leila Josefowicz, who recently won the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (“Genius”) Award, has graced the covers of such magazines as The Strad and BBC Music Magazine, and appeared on The Tonight Show and CBS Sunday Morning, will be the featured guest soloist with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra at 8:00 pm on Thursday, January 29 and Saturday, January 31 performing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto under Music Director Christopher Seaman.  Ms. Josefowicz joins Maestro Seaman to host the pre-concert chat at 7:00 pm.

Lovers of both strings and brass will be in for a treat, as the concert opens with “opposing” brass choirs in an arrangement by Eastman Wind Ensemble Conductor Mark Scatterday of Aria della battaglia by Baroque composer Gabrieli.  The reference of “Battle Aria” evokes the fashion of the time for war-like pieces of music, despite the fact that there are tender and subtle passages contrasting music of the expected fanfare and battle imitation.

Ms. Josefowicz’s performance of Beethoven’s expansive and masterful Concerto comes with an additional bonus of her own composed cadenza (historically, an improvised – or written out – brilliant, short passage performed unaccompanied by a soloist in a concerto).  Although not a technically easy piece, the principal challenges of the Concerto lie in communicating its expressiveness and its spirituality, as well as the sheer physical stamina of the performer.  The concerto opens with the famous drums-taps, which turn into one of the main themes.  The second movement, a set of variations on a lyrical theme, is followed immediately by a graceful dance-like finale. 

In her notes about the cadenza, Ms. Josefowicz writes: “I aimed to give a refreshing perspective on musical ideas that Beethoven used,” explaining that she was inspired by Beethoven’s use of the timpani, and decided to incorporate this unusual instrumental combination in her cadenza.  She also remarks that “the creation of one’s own cadenzas may seem adventurous and almost artistically risky in today’s age of respect for the written score, when at the time the concerto was written, performing one’s own cadenzas was the expected norm.”

After intermission, the RPO plays two Czech pieces, Bedřich Smetana’s “From Bohemia’s Fields and Groves” from Má vlast (My Country), and Leoš Janáček’s Sinfonietta, another work featuring a big brass section.  Rooted in folk song, Smetana’s piece evokes the glorious countryside of his Bohemian homeland.  Janáček’s work began as a Fanfare, but expanded into something more ambitious.  According to Christopher Seaman, who has conducted the orchestra of Brno, “the composer wanted to describe the joy of his town of Brno, when an independent Czech state was established after World War I.  There is struggle, yearning, dancing, and celebration, beginning and ending with those magnificent fanfares, which include nine trumpets and two bass trumpets!”

Leila Josefowicz came to national attention at age 16 when she made her Carnegie Hall debut with Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. She has since won the hearts of audiences worldwide with her fresh approach to the repertoire and her dynamic virtuosity.  Ms. Josefowicz’s affinity for new music is reflected in her diverse programs and her enthusiasm for premiering new compositions. She regularly collaborates with leading contemporary composers, and this season, premieres the Thomas Adès Violin Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra as well as the San Francisco, Seattle, and Alabama symphonies.

Other orchestral engagements include appearances with the Cleveland Orchestra; the New York Philharmonic; and the Chicago, Toronto, Atlanta, Detroit, Baltimore, Dallas, and Cincinnati symphonies. She also performs extensively in Europe and in Asia.

Tickets for these performances are $20-$56, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org, by phone (454-2100) and in person from the RPO Box Office, Monday-Saturday, 10:00 am-5:00 pm (non-concert Saturdays, 10:00 am-3:00 pm). 

The Philharmonics Series is sponsored by The Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch & Lomb.  The RPO gratefully acknowledges PAETEC Communications Inc. for the PAETEC Philharmonic Partners program, which offers discounted $9 Philharmonics Series tickets to local students. 

Celebrating its 86th season in 2008-09, the RPO inspires and enriches the community through the art of music, presenting nearly 200 performances each season to a combined audience of an estimated quarter of a million people, including more than 70,000 who experience the RPO’s broad range of educational and community programs.  The Orchestra is passionately dedicated to outstanding musical performance at the highest artistic levels, and has a unique tradition of musical versatility, commitment to music education in the broadest sense and a deep and enduring engagement with the community.  The RPO has been honored with the New York State Governor’s Arts Award and two ASCAP awards for adventurous programming.  RPO performances are made possible in part with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency; the State of New York; Monroe County and the City of Rochester. 

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