The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music Q&A: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto is the “godfather” of popular Romantic violin concertos, says violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky, who will perform it Friday night with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

February 21, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night at 8 p.m., in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below) will perform under music director and conductor Andrew Sewell with violin soloist Alexander Sitkovetsky, who will be making his Madison debut.

The concert will begin with a shot piece by Benjamin Britten, the “End Sequence” of “Night Mail.” American Players Theatre actor James Ridgeway with speak the narration by famed poet W.H. Auden.

But after that it becomes all-Beethoven.

Big Beethoven.

Specifically, the WCO will be joined by Sitkovetsky in Beethoven’s famous Violin Concerto.

Then comes the equally famous and beloved Symphony No. 6 or “Pastoral” with its peasant dances and storm sequence.

For more information about the concert and tickets, visit:

http://www.wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/27/event-info/

On tour in Italy, Sitkovetsky (below) gave an email Q&A to the Ear:

Could briefly introduce yourself to readers and mention highlights of your personal and professional life?

I am Alexander Sitkovetsky and I am a concert violinist. I was born in Moscow, Russia, but moved to England at the age of 7 to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School. I was invited by Lord Menuhin himself (below), so this was an incredible honor and an amazing opportunity for me.

A definite early highlight was having the chance to perform Bach’s Double Violin Concerto with Menuhin at the age of 8. Although I was very young, I will never forget the amazing experience of having the opportunity to share the stage with one of the greatest musicians and people of the 20th century.

Other career highlights include recording my first CD for the Angel-EMI label; performing in some of the world’s most beautiful concert halls like the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Wigmore Hall and many others. Earlier this year, in January, I made my recital debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall in New York. I also got married last summer to a fantastic pianist from Shanghai, Wu Qian. We have a fantastic piano trio together with a German Cellist, Leonard Elschenbroich

What are your current and upcoming projects – tours, recordings, special events, whatever?

This is a busy time, after my trip to Madison, which I am greatly looking forward to. I will perform with different orchestras in the UK in March, culminating in a performance of the Mendelssohn Concerto with the Brussels Philharmonic at London’s Cadogan Hall. Later this year, I will have a tour of Switzerland performing the Glazunov Violin Concerto and appear at the Gstaad Festival.

In September, I will be a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. I will be doing two programs at Lincoln Center in New York so I am looking forward to coming to the US more often and performing with this fantastic organization. With my trio (below), we will be performing at the Wigmore Hall in May and then Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the Konzerthaus Orchestra of Berlin in the summer.

In Madison you will be performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto. How do you place that work in the context of and compared to other major concertos in the violin repertoire?

I think that in many ways, the Beethoven Violin Concerto is the “godfather” of the big violin concertos that we all know so well, and who knows if Brahms, Tchaikovsky and the others would have written their concertos if it wasn’t for Beethoven (below).

I believe that it is the biggest and most expansive concerto written up to that point. It has beautiful, sweeping melodic lines, and though the violin is the solo instrument, it is constantly in dialogue with the orchestra. There is a very symphonic feel to the work.

What attracts other people but especially you to the music of Beethoven? Are there favorite Beethoven works – for violin or other instruments – that you repeatedly turn to?

Are there violinists in the past whom you especially admire and think of as role models in terms of tone, interpretation, technique, etc.?

I admire all great violinists, both from the past and the present. I grew up with the recordings of Heifetz (below top) and for me he is the greatest violinist that we have ever heard with our own ears. (Paganini we just know about and can imagine). Also, I am a huge admirer of Fritz Kreisler (below bottom), mostly because of his tone and also because it never seemed that he was in a hurry. He always took his time to sing all the notes and I think that this is an amazing quality. His recording of the Beethoven Concerto is actually my favorite of the piece.

What qualities do you look for in the best or finest performances by yourself or others?

It is a difficult question to answer because when you are working on yourself, you are looking for so many things and are never fully satisfied. But I would say that I think that the most important thing is to try and create an interpretation that is wholly convincing and one that will connect with the audience and maybe touch them in some way — whether this is through your sound, through your virtuosity or through the depth of your interpretation. Usually a really successful performance will have all three!

I believe this is your second performance in Madison. In the fall of 2010 you performed Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. What would you like to say about the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and conductor Andrew Sewell or about Madison and its audiences? 

Unfortunately, I was ill and had to cancel my appearance! So this will be my debut in Madison! But I have worked with Andrew Sewell (below) once before in Monterrey with the Paganini Concerto and that was a lot of fun! I am very excited about seeing and working with him again!

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