NEW YORK – Insights at the Atrium: An Evening with Leonidas Kavakos and Lera Auerbach took place on Tuesday, February 28 with the gifted Greek violinist and the New York Philharmonic’s Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence for 2016-17 Kavakos and composer Auerbach discussing the challenges and rewards of creating a new musical work.
The fascinating backstory of Auerbach’s NYx: Fractured Dreams (Violin Concerto No. 4), a New York Philharmonic commission written for Kavakos, and Kavakos’ thoughts on the piece just a day before he performs the World Premiere on March 1 delighted fans of classical music at Lincoln Center’s David Rubinstein Atrium.
The well-attended event was free and open to the public, drawing music-lovers from all walks of life including students from the nearby Juilliard School as well as longtime Lincoln Center patrons. The New York Philharmonic’s Theodore Wiprud- Vice President, Education, and the Sue B. Mercy Chair, served as moderator for the discussion.
When asked about the new violin concerto, Kavakos said the creation of a new piece is always a highlight. About conducting, Kavakos noted that he wanted to conduct even before he picked up the violin but that performing a work and also conducting it is difficult for the violinist because of the size of the instrument and how it is played.
You cannot move your head and facing the orchestra, the sound of the violin will not carry to the audience, Kavakos explained, noting that it is possible for a pianist to also conduct since the piano is so large, the sound carries, and the pianist can move his or her head to face the orchestra. Kavakos also spoke about his love of teaching, referring to the master class he teaches in Athens. He said it is the greatest responsibility but his schedule and traveling so much keep him from devoting more time to it.
The student-teacher relationship is a special one and one that Kavakos does not take lightly, mentioning how impressed he is with students’ devotion to music and study that they travel from all over the world to attend the class in Athens. About performing new works, Kavakos observed that it is important for him to identify with the music and the composer, to like the work and the composer, it doesn’t have to be written expressly for him as this new violin concerto was, but he has to feel it in order to perform truthfully, especially if the music demands a lot from the performer.
Auerbach noted the ancient Greek name of the new violin concerto NYx for the goddess of the night. The unusual capitalization recalls not only the Greek word for night, but also the abbreviation for New York since both inspired the work. As Auerbach noted, the goddess Nyx is the mother of sleep and dreams, the fractured nature of which calls to mind the experience of people coming to New York to live out their dreams, and like life itself, the fragments, memories, and the contrasting experiences form a whole.
The new violin concerto is divided into 13 dreams, not movements like most musical compositions. The prolific composer also creates visual art as part of her creative process including sculptures that will be on display at Gallery Shchukin, 110 East 31st Street in Manhattan, throughout March, and a bronze piece also entitled NYx. The sculpture was on display during the discussion and features the musical notation of the new work carved onto it.
Video clips of previous Auerbach compositions performed by Kavakos on violin and Auerbach on piano highlighted the tremendous talent of both artists. The World Premiere of NYx: Fractured Dreams (Violin Concerto No. 4) performed by Kavakos and the New York Philharmonic takes place on March 1 at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall. The new work will be performed along with Mahler’s Fourth Symphony on March 2 and 3 as well. More information and tickets are available online at www.lincolncenter.org.