In the final concert marking this season’s Bernstein Centennial, the San Francisco Symphony is led by Russian conductor Andrey Boreyko. The program opens with the legendary composer and conductor’s Divertimento for Orchestra, continues with his Serenade (after Plato’s Symposium) – performed by guest violinist Vadim Gluzman – and concludes with the Shostakovich Symphony No 5.
Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman refers to Bernstein’s Serenade as “one of the greatest violin concertos of the 20th century, an absolute masterwork” and leaves us in no doubt about the degree to which he’s going to enjoy playing it at Davies Symphony Hall this week. It’s a work which he’s recently performed with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and also with the Czech Philharmonic.
Other highlights of his 2017-18 season include appearances with Riccardo Chailly and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, the Festival des Pâques in Aix-en-Provence, the Bayerisches Staatsorchester with Daniele Rustioni, and the Boston Symphony under the direction of Tugan Sokhiev. Next season, Mr Gluzman will take up his position as Distinguished Artist in Residence in the violin faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University, where he will teach a private studio of violin majors, coach ensembles and present public master classes.
Andrey Boreyko has, since September 2014, been Music Director of the Artis-Naples – home of the Naples Philharmonic and the Baker Museum. From 2012 to 2017 he was Music Director of l’Orchestre National de Belgique, and held the same position with the Düsseldorf Symphoniker from 2009 to 2014. For three consecutive seasons he was the recipient of an award from the Deutscher Musikverleger-Verband for the most innovative concert programming – the first in the history of the prize.
He has appeared with some of the world’s finest orchestras – such as the Berlin, New York and Los Angeles philharmonics, Staatskapelle Dresden, l’Orchestre de Paris, the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich, Filharmonica della Scala and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. A seasoned conductor of the symphonic repertoire, and passionate about the performance of less widely known works, Maestro Boreyko also enjoys long-term relationships with the most prestigious of European ensembles.
Leonard Bernstein’s Divertimento for Orchestra is described as lighthearted and joyful – a work apparently inspired by his youth. It was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1980 – where Bernstein had served as assistant to the orchestra’s conductor, Serge Koussevitzky – and he dedicated it “with affection” to the BSO on the occasion of its first centennial. The Divertimento is a series based on two notes – B for Boston and C for Centennial.
Bernstein’s Serenade is regarded as one of his most lyrical works. Composed for his friend, violinist Isaac Stern, it was written in 1954, and dedicated to the memory of his mentor, Koussevitzky, and to the conductor’s first wife, Natalie. As with a number of his works, the Serenade was inspired by literature, on this occasion Plato’s dialogue The Symposium. In an interview with his biographer Humphrey Burton, Bernstein described it as “seven speeches, at a banquet, after-dinner speeches so to speak” on the subject of love.
The final work in the program is the Shostakovich Symphony No 5 . It was written during the fearful time of Stalin’s purges, and followed the displeasure of the Soviet authorities which Shostakovich had incurred with his 1934 opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. The symphony was regarded as a measure of atonement for the heavily criticized opera, and it duly featured a lyrical style, with what’s described as “a heroic tone and inspiration from Russian literature”, according to the notes from the Keeping Score series which Michael Wilson Thomas and the Symphony devised for KQED. Nevertheless, the notes continue, “many hear a subtext of critical despair beneath the crowd-pleasing melodies”.
Andrey Boreyko leads the San Francisco Symphony and guest artist Vadim Gluzman in works by Bernstein and Shostakovich at Davies Symphony Hall from February 22nd to 24th. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.
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