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Culture

Leonidas Kavakos Premieres Unsuk Chin Violin Concerto in Boston and New York

NEW YORK – On March 3-5, Unsuk Chin’s Violin Concerto No2: ‘Shards of Silence’ receives its US premiere at Boston’s Symphony Hall with renowned Greek soloist Leonidas Kavakos, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and conductor Andris Nelsons, following the January world premiere with Kavakos, the London Symphony Orchestra, and conductor Simon Rattle. Kavakos next performs Chin’s new concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on March 14, followed by the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester at the end of March.

It was Kavakos’ brilliant artistry that prompted Chin to break her self-imposed rule of writing only one concerto for any given instrument. She explains in her program note: “I decided to break with this ‘principle’ because of my encounter with Leonidas Kavakos’ unique musicianship and artistic personality, which resulted in new ideas on tackling this genre’s challenges… My Violin Concerto No. 2 is a subjective portrait of and a dialogue with Leonidas Kavakos’ musicianship, which is burningly intense, and at the same time, impeccable and completely focused.”

Unsuk Chin. Photo: Priska Ketterer

Chin states that her second violin concerto “is very different from all the other music I have written for the violin,” and reflects the many works for the instrument she has written since her first concerto debuted 20 years ago, including Gran Cadenza, a violin duo she wrote for Anne-Sophie Mutter in 2018.

Critical acclaim for Violin Concerto No. 2 has focused on the unique antiphonal nature of the piece. The Times wrote: “Brilliantly conceived by the Korean composer, it places the soloist at the centre of everything for all of its 25-minute, single-movement span, but surrounds him with a flamboyant array of orchestral ideas that intermittently flare up or flicker away in the background yet never overwhelm the violin.”

The Financial Times remarked on Chin’s clear development of musical ideas: “Out of silence, the solo violin tries an opening idea that stretches tentatively into the higher reaches of the instrument’s harmonics. A line, a phrase, starts to coalesce and this forms the nucleus of what follows… As so often in Chin’s music, the orchestral writing glittered with freshly minted combinations of sounds.”

A video of the world premiere in London is available on medici.tv until April 6: https://bit.ly/3IpXJb3.

Concert Information

Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Avenue in Boston, Thursday, March 3, 10:30 AM ET; Thursday, March 3, 8 PM ET; Friday, March 4, 1:30 PM ET; and Saturday, March 5, 8 PM ET. More information and tickets available online: https://bit.ly/3rGKvQf.

Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, 881 7th Avenue in Manhattan, Monday, March 14 at 8 PM ET, the Boston Symphony Orchestra with Andris Nelsons, conductor, and Leonidas Kavakos on violin. The program includes Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question, Unsuk Chin’s Violin Concerto No. 2, “Scherben der Stille” (“Shards of Silence”) [NY Premiere], and Symphonie fantastique by Hector Berlioz. More information and tickets available online: https://bit.ly/3fMZtPe.

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