Remmereit to lead violinist Shaham, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

By Mark Kanny
Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

Gil Shaham is an adventurous violinist with a big repertoire.

He‘s particularly proud of having played a role in commissioning a new piece for solo violin by American composer William Bolcom called Suite No. 2 and inspired by the sonatas and partitas of Johann Sebastian Bach — which he‘s playing in recital this season.

He‘s also playing 10 violin concerti by different composers this season, including one by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with the Pittsburgh Symphony.

“Among violinists, I think, I‘m not alone in saying there is no greater joy than playing Mozart. He wrote in way that feels so well on the violin, makes the violin sing,” he says. “I think that‘s amazing, and other musicians say the same thing about his writing for their instruments.”

Arild Remmereit will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with Shaham as soloist at concerts Friday through Sunday at Heinz Hall, Downtown.

Remmereit is music director of the Rochester Philharmonic and made news at the end of last month when the board of the orchestra decided to terminate his contract in August 2013, midway through a four-year agreement. He reportedly had frequent conflicts with board chair Elizabeth F. Rice and chief executive officer Charles Owens. The conductor submitted a breach-of-contract letter to the board on Nov. 27; his contract was shortened the next day.

Remmereit, who has led several successful concerts with the Pittsburgh Symphony in recent years, will conduct three pieces at weekend concerts — the Pittsburgh premiere of George Walker‘s Sinfonia No. 4 (“Strands”), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s Violin Concerto No. 5 (“Turkish”) and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky‘s Symphony No. 1 (“Winter Dreams”).

Mozart wrote all five of his violin concerti in 1775, and Shaham says the Fifth shows amazing growth.

“It is not only longer in duration. It has the most incredible range of emotions and freedom within the form,” he says. “In the middle of the first movement, there is an Adagio aria, which redefines the whole (orchestral introduction) in terms of the melody the violin plays for the first time.”

He says the Turkish episode in the finale show “what an incredible dramatist he was. Anytime you go on stage to play Mozart, you know you have the best material for your audience.”

The program also features the local premiere of Sinfonia No. 4 (“Strands”) by Walker. It was co-commissioned by the New Jersey Symphony, which gave the premiere in Newark in March, and the Cincinnati Symphony, National Symphony in Washington, and Pittsburgh Symphony.

Walker, who won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for music, says the nine-minute piece is “complex, intense and compact” and intertwines strands of unrelated melodic materials, two of which are initial phrases of spirituals.

The concert will conclude with the Tchaikovsky‘s Symphony No. 1, written in 1867 when he was 27. The first two movements were called “Reveries of a Winter Journey” and “Land of Desolation, Land of Mists,” but there are no program hints for the final two movements.

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or [email protected].

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