Nicola Benedetti Performs the Beethoven Violin Concerto
January 18-21 | 2018
Donald Runnicles CONDUCTS
Nicola Benedetti VIOLIN
Overture to Fidelio
Symphony No. 7
Leonore Overture No. 3
Nicola Benedetti returns to the Dallas Symphony to dazzle with the towering splendor of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.
“[Benedetti’s] gutsy, passionate… infectious energy.” The Times (London)
- Nicola Benedetti Trades Wynton Marsalis for Beethoven With the DSO
by Holly Lafon, Dallas Observer
This weekend, superstar violinist Nicola Benedetti will perform a feat of musical versatility. Fresh off two years of performing Wynton Marsalis’ wild, polarizing Concerto in D, she will return to the classical canon and tackle a giant of the past: Beethoven’s revered violin concerto.
Benedetti, 30, has been touring Marsalis’ concerto since its London debut in 2015. The final product, a piece the Pulitzer Prize-winning jazz genius wrote for and with Benedetti, unleashes Celtic, American, jazz and blues fiddle styles with European contemporary sounds, stormy sections, cleverly orchestrated percussive effects and some theatrics in its roughly 40 minutes. (Spoiler alert: It ends with the soloist walking off stage while still playing.)
But it’s no mashup. Amid all the praise Marsalis’ concerto has received, some have said that it tries to do too much. But Benedetti, who worked closely with Marsalis during the two-year writing process, says he made each musical choice deliberately, knowing the entire structure and melody of each movement from the moment he penned the first note. The result is “a really uplifting piece of music” and “a journey of diverse sounds,” Benedetti tells the Observer, calling her collaboration with the composer “one of the greatest experiences” of her life.
“He’s managed to take all of these forms and sew them together with material that is inextricable from each other and extremely connected,” she says.
Now that she has infused the complex new piece with life, her relationship to it continues to evolve as she performs with new orchestras and conductors.
“I look back to my first performances of it, and to me, they seem extremely conservative. And I’m sure in the next five years it will grow in dimensions I can’t even imagine right now,” she says.
- Donald Runnicles a Candidate for DSO Music Director? Who Knows?
by Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News
The guessing game continues: Who will be the next music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, after Jaap van Zweden steps down this summer?
A guest conductor much respected by DSO musicians, the Scotsman Donald Runnicles, was on the podium Thursday night. He brought with him an unusual program, in an unusual order: two of the overtures Beethoven composed for his sole opera, originally called Leonore, later Fidelio, framing the composer's Violin Concerto and Sibelius' Seventh Symphony. And he made an arresting case for everything.
Runnicles has impressive credentials in both opera houses and concert halls. He's music director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin but at the moment has no orchestra title more substantial than principal guest conductor of the Atlanta Symphony.
At age 63, he may or may not be interested in the responsibilities of another music director's post, and the DSO may be looking for someone younger. But, with all that upper-body exercise, conductors tend to be long-lived, and there's certainly something to be said for a veteran's skill set.
Runnicles' operatic experience certainly showed in vivid, dramatic performances of all four pieces. Indeed, it was a fairly operatic approach, shared by soloist Nicola Benedetti, that so refreshed the Violin Concerto.
It's often played, as the late Michael Steinberg wrote, as "an elegant, gracious, playful and virtuosic work more than a 'deep' one." But it hails from the same period as the opera, and Benedetti and Runnicles emphasized its contrasts among sweetly soaring, passingly turbulent and happily buoyant music. They gave it muscle when wanted, sublimity elsewhere. Benedetti played fabulously, with wholly sympathetic collaboration from Runnicles and company.
- Runnicles Makes an Impressive Showing in Thought-Provoking DSO Program
by Wayne Lee Gay, Texas Classical Review
The opening exclamation of Beethoven’s Overture to Fidelio launched a superbly conceived, beautifully performed concert by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and conductor Donald Runnicles Thursday night at Meyerson Symphony Center.
The initial flash of symphonic lightning served to signal more of the glories to come as Runnicles journeyed through the Overture’s succinct reflections and adventures, with impressively efficient baton technique as well as intellectual grasp of the work’s neatly distilled drama. Only in the final moments of this short curtain-raiser did he lapse into the tendency of guest conductors unfamiliar with the Meyerson acoustic to allow a fortissimo to turn overly noisy.
The longest and most impressive item on the agenda followed immediately as violinist Nicola Benedetti–clad in a distractingly revealing gown–joined Runnicles and the orchestra for Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. Conductor and soloist both clearly agreed on an epic vision of this work, with the calm grandeur of the long orchestral introduction setting the stage for Benedetti’s quietly expressive entry. Benedetti’s clean trills and passagework, tossed off with serene ease, built inexorably toward a passionately delivered climax: in collaboration with pianist Petr Limonov, Benedetti has created her own enthralling cadenza based on Beethoven’s cadenza for the piano transcription of this concerto, nicely incorporating the timpani obbligato from the piano version.
In the Larghetto movement, Benedetti produced a hypnotic sense of lyricism, particularly in the yearning second theme; in the final Rondo movement, she managed a rare combination of solid, substantial tone and sprightly energy to round out a memorable presentation of this masterpiece.