The Winter Festival that New Jersey Symphony Orchestra produces at the beginning of every year is definitely a series of events to enter into that brand new calendar that you buy for the following year. There are treats galore from new musicians to well-established virtuosi and 2017 is exceptional!
The guest artistic director for this year’s Winter Festival is renowned violinist and conductor Pinchas Zukerman. His residency is marked with warmth and grace, as well as vigorous dazzling solos. Week One of the Winter Festival included a first act that featured the facets of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, whose writing for violin made a perfect match for Maestro Zukerman. Leading off with "Mélodie" from “Souvenir d'un Lieu Cher,” Opus 42—literally "Memory of a dear place"—the piece was gamine and playful. “Sérénade Mélancolique,” Opus 26 is seriously dramatic, a delicious contrast with "Mélodie," and has a colorful background. It was originally dedicated to Leopold Auer, a renowned Hungarian violinist, who was a professor at the Imperial Conservatory in St. Petersburg, who arrived after Tchaikovsky was already a professor there. Tchaikovsky had been impressed by Auer, but Auer was not the first to premiere the “Sérénade,” though he was the first to play it in St. Petersburg. Later, when Auer refused to perform the Violin Concerto in D major, written expressly for him, Tchaikovsky withdrew the dedication of “Sérénade”—la scandale!
The final work in Act One was Serenade for Strings in C Major, Opus 48, which begins solemnly, lush and full of energy and flow in the Pezzo in forma di sonatina: Andante non troppo–Allegro moderato, which segues into the Valse: Moderato–Tempo di valse, which stirs your feet and your soul—“so you think you can dance," circa 1880. Élégie: Larghetto elegiaco is contemplative and sentimental, evoking any number of places in the heart. The Finale, Tema Russo, has a sense of speed and motion, progress and invention, and the glorious return to the main theme seems like a celebration.
The sole work in Act Two was Felix Mendelssohn's Symphony Number Four in A Major, "Italian," Opus 90. Maestro Zukerman conducted, from memory without a score, a superbly energetic Allegro vivace and an Andante con moto full of portent! The Con moto moderato was mannered and smooth, and truly it is poetry for strings. The Saltarello: Presto combined great strength with martial fervor that possessed passion and a sense of play. The infinity loop of Maestro Zukerman's baton was dextrously hypnotic, while his left hand seemed to extract every morsel of meaning from this world-class orchestra.
Arrive early on these special days and your plans to enjoy the pre-concert lecture, as well as the young musicians from the NJSO Academy. Caleb Shi, violinist and concertmaster of the Youth orchestra, and Sean Marron, an alum of the Youth orchestra, currently taking additional studies in the pre-college Juilliard program, treated us to solos ranging from George Frideric Handel to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a duo originally for two flutes, transcribed for flute and violin by Albert Franz Doppler. Open up your calendar and get going! Book your tickets now at www.njsymphony.org