NEW YORK – On Wednesday, March 1, Leonidas Kavakos, the gifted Greek violinist, conductor, and the New York Philharmonic’s Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence for 2016-17, performed the world premiere of composer Lera Auerbach’s NYx: Fractured Dreams (Violin Concerto No. 4), a New York Philharmonic commission written expressly for Kavakos.
The performance took place at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall and demonstrated the remarkable talents of both the virtuoso soloist and the composer in a challenging, imaginative work that draws its inspiration from the ancient Greek goddess of the night, Nyx, the mother of sleep, dreams, and death, and also from the fragmented experience of life in New York City.
The night before the world premiere, Kavakos and Auerbach took part in a discussion at Lincoln Center’s David Rubinstein Atrium where they spoke about the new work. When asked about the new violin concerto, Kavakos said the creation of a new piece is always a highlight.
He observed that it is important for him to identify with the music and the composer when approaching a new piece, to like the work and the composer, though 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 great deal from the performer.
At the concert on March 1, Auerbach offered an introduction before the piece was performed. She spoke about 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, dreams, and death, the fragmented nature of dreams 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 cohesive whole.
The new violin concerto is divided into 13 dreams, not movements like most musical compositions.
Powerful contrasting themes highlight the piece and the ethereal, and often eerie sound of a musical saw is the “evil twin” for Kavakos on the violin, as Auerbach said in the discussion on Tuesday night. The effect is extraordinary as Kavakos plays this dynamic piece with his tremendous skill, technique, and artistry, all of which have made him such a star in the world of classical music.
Hearing Kavakos play live is a thrill for audiences. He communicates such emotion and truth with every note, even the pizzicato, the plucking of the strings instead of using the bow on the violin, is evocative.
Lera Auerbach’s NYx: Fractured Dreams (Violin Concerto No. 4) performed by Kavakos and the New York Philharmonic with conductor Alan Gilbert at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall was performed along with Mahler’s Fourth Symphony and will be performed again on March 2 and 3 as well. More information and tickets are available online at www.lincolncenter.org.
Born and raised in Athens, Leonidas Kavakos, the world-renowned violinist and conductor, is from a musical family. His residency with the New York Philharmonic features three solo appearances in repertoire ranging from the Baroque to the contemporary, his Philharmonic conducting debut, a recital with pianist Yuja Wang (presented in association with Lincoln Center’s Great Performers),and a Young People’s Concert.
Also in the season he appears with The Philadelphia Orchestra; plays and conducts the Houston Symphony; embarks on a recital tour with Wang in both Europe and the US; and undertakes a European tour with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and a tour to Switzerland with the Mariinsky Orchestra.
By age 21, Kavakos had already won three major competitions: the Sibelius (1985), the Paganini (1988), and the Naumburg (1988). This success led to his making the first recording in history of the original Sibelius Violin Concerto (1903–04), which won the 1991 Gramophone Concerto of the Year Award.
He has since appeared regularly as soloist with the Vienna, Berlin, New York, and Los Angeles philharmonic orchestras; London, Boston, and Chicago symphony orchestras; and the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Philadelphia Orchestras. As a conductor Kavakos has worked with the Atlanta, Boston, London, and Vienna symphony orchestras; Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin; Maggio Musicale Fiorentino; Chamber Orchestra of Europe; Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France; and Budapest Festival Orchestra.
An exclusive Decca Classics recording artist, Kavakos’ first release on the label, of the complete Beethoven violin sonatas with pianist Enrico Pace (2013), earned him an ECHO Klassik Instrumentalist of the Year award. Later recordings include Brahms’ Violin Concerto with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Riccardo Chailly; Brahms’ violin sonatas with Yuja Wang; and, his most recent recording, Virtuoso (released in April 2016).
His earlier discography includes recordings for BIS, ECM, and Sony Classical. Kavakos was named Gramophone Artist of the Year 2014. He plays the “Abergavenny” Stradivarius violin of 1724