Anchorage Symphony Orchestra presents ‘Virtuosity’ | Music
On Saturday, February 26 (7:30 p.m.), the Anchorage Symphony takes the stage for its fourth classical concert of the season, Virtuosity. This evening of musical mastery and artistic performance includes Rossini’s comic overture to The thieving magpieBilly Child’s novella Violin Concerto No. 2featuring powerful violinist Rachel Barton Pine and the lively music of Beethoven Symphony No. 2.
The ASO undertakes to contribute regularly to the classical repertoire by commissioning new works. In this concert, they are honored to have co-commissioned a work that reflects our times from one of America’s greatest contemporary composers and GRAMMY Award-winning artist, Billy Childs. Growing up surrounded by jazz, classical and popular music, you can hear these influences in Childs’ compositions today. A piano prodigy, Childs gave public performances at age six and was admitted to the University of Southern California Community School of Performing Arts at just sixteen.
By the time he received his Bachelor of Music degree from USC, he had become well known in the Los Angeles jazz community. After being discovered by trumpet legend Freddie Hubbard, the two toured together, performing and recording. Childs has since recorded and performed with some of the greatest jazz musicians of his time, including JJ Johnson and Wynton Marsalis.
Although he is an acclaimed performer, Childs is also an in-demand composer. It has been commissioned by major orchestras such as the LA Philharmonic and the Detroit Symphony; and smaller groups like the Kronos Quartet and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, to name a few. In 2006 he received a Composer Chamber Music America Fellowship, and in 2009 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship. He also received the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award in 2013 and most recently the American Academy of Arts and Letters Music Award in 2015. In 2016 Childs was named President of Chamber Music America.
Childs composed his Violin Concerto No. 2 during the complex first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. He found himself channeling all the anxiety and uncertainty around him into a new piece of music. While in unprecedented times, Childs has also composed his new concerto a little differently. He wrote it backwards, writing the third movement first.
Childs writes: “The 3rd movement, the most angular and dense of the three, was written first because restlessness and nervousness were the first things that came to mind. But I knew I didn’t want the play to start like that; I wanted to end with this – an assertive resilience that showed a personal triumph over our fears about COVID, American race relations and environmental issues that have been heightened in 2020. It was the first feeling that prevailed in my mind when I set out to compose the piece.”
His second violin concerto was composed especially for the soloist of the evening, Rachel Barton Pine. Childs writes: “I would like to thank the great Rachel Barton Pine for commissioning this piece – my third composition was written especially for her. It is truly an honor to compose a piece for such a singular and extraordinary soloist. also to thank all of the co-curators for this project: the Grant Park Orchestra, the Boulder Philharmonic, the Anchorage Symphony and the Interlochen Concert Orchestra.”
Billy Childs will join the ASO on February 26 for their performance of his new concerto. The ASO is also thrilled to share the stage again with the “exciting and boundary-defying” (Washington Post) Rachel Barton Pine. Some may remember his superb interpretation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in 2014 or his spectacular interpretation of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in 2018. Playing on a Joseph Guarnerius del Gesu (Cremona 1742), known as “the ex-Bazzini, ex-Soldier” Pine has become a leading performer of great classical masterpieces and an international concert violinist. She delights audiences around the world with her dazzling techniques, illustrious tone and emotional honesty. .
At just ten years old, Pine began his career with the Chicago Symphony. From this defining moment, she went on to perform solo with many of the world’s most prestigious symphonies, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic and Dutch Radio Kamer Filharmonie. She also holds prizes from several of the world’s leading competitions, including the Gold Medal at the 1992 JS Bach International Violin Competition in Leipzig, Germany.
Not content to interpret the notes on the page, Pine is one of the few contemporary violinists to write her own cadenzas for many of the works she performs. With The Rachel Barton Pine Collection, she became the only living artist and the first woman to join great musicians like Fritz Kreisler and Jascha Heifetz in Carl Fischer’s Masters Collection series. She also has a prolific discography of 36 CDs on the Avie, Cedille, Warner Classics and Dorian labels.
Whether performing on stage, teaching students in a masterclass, or greeting people after a performance, Pine has an incredible ability to connect with people. During the first wave of COVID-19 quarantines, she took that charisma into the virtual world. Her online performances included Mozart’s Concerto No. 1 with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Domingo Hindoyan, a Grant Park Music Festival event where she and Billy Childs offered a preview of her new violin concerto, a Washington Performing Arts tribute in honor of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and many others.
Opening this special evening is Rossini’s overture to his playful and mischievous opera La Gazza Ladra (The thieving magpie). Recognizable by its militaristic openness, The thieving magpie is a comic opera about a classic case of mistaken identity and a stolen silver spoon. The overture opens with snare drums, which caught the attention of audiences at the premiere in 1821 as it was one of the first times they had been heard in a symphony orchestra. Contemporary audiences can recognize the opening of films such as A clockwork orange or the BBC series sherlock. It is often used in scenes to indicate that something bad is happening.
When compiling a list of virtuoso composers and performers of the classical repertoire, you must include Beethoven. By listening to his Symphony No. 2, it is difficult to reconcile the deep depression he was going through when he wrote it. His hearing loss had become more pronounced, to such an extent that he stopped accepting invitations to social engagements. He was also beginning to realize that this loss was incurable. He wrote to a physician friend of his, “That jealous demon, my miserable health, has put a nasty spoke in the wheel; and it comes down to this, that for three years my hearing has become weaker and weaker”. This letter is the first time that Beethoven admitted to anyone that he was losing his hearing.
His depression was such that Beethoven considered ending his life, writing: “I would have ended my life. Only my art held me back. It seemed impossible to me to leave the world before having produced all that I felt to be in me. Despite this deep depression, his Second Symphony is full of vitality and humor, demonstrating his strength and determination to seize the moment. After its premiere, Hector Berlioz remarked, “this Symphony is smiling from start to finish”. Audiences are sure to leave the Atwood Concert Hall filled with Beethoven’s resolve and optimism.
Tickets for Virtuosity are now available to attend in person or to experience the multi-camera high-definition live stream.