After its October concert series, during which the Chicago Symphony Orchestra presented the works of Witold Lutosławski, the orchestra performed the works of yet another Polish composer – Henryk Wieniawski.
Henryk Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp Minor is a technically difficult piece – so difficult, that after the composer's death in 1880, no one attempted it until the second half of the 20th century. Ray Chen, a 'bright representative of a new generation of virtuosos', was more than up to the task.
Howard Reich, from the Chicago Tribune, described Chen's performance: 'After a long orchestral exposition, in which Chen occasionally played along, he made a compelling case for the concerto and for himself with a bravura opening statement. Long lyric lines, crisp rhythmic articulation, gorgeous tone and an apparently inexhaustible ability to finesse technical challenges suggested there would be thrilling listening ahead. There was'.
Chen is the winner of the International Yehudi Menuhin Violin Competition (2008) as well as the Queen Elisabeth Competition (2009). He is currently signed by Sony Classics.
Ray Chen on the Wieniawski Violin Concerto No. 1
Chen was accompanied by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, known as one of the 'Big Five', according to critics – one of the most prestigious and well-known orchestras in the USA. John Storgårds, Chief Guest Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra as well as Principal Guest Conductor of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, conducted the performance. Critics praise Storgårds's creativity when building the programme – this time, he opened with the first CSO performance of Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral.
Sergey Elkin, writing for the Russian-American online magazine Reklama, wrote: 'Anyone who attributes this work’s popularity around the world simply to its accessibility misses the point. Higdon creates an air of profound spirituality via the work’s textural transparency, slow-but-inexorable forward motion and mystical array of glittering percussive effects'.
The concerts that took place 10-12 October included the same lineup of musicians, performing the works of Witold Lutosławski. The orchestra was conducted by Kirill Karabits, who has previously worked with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute during the I, CULTURE Orchestra project. The presence of compositions by Lutosławski and Wienawski in seven concerts of the renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra signals a hope for the further recognition of Polish musical excellence.
- Higdon – Blue Cathedral
- Wieniawski – I Koncert Skrzypcowy
- Czajkowski – IV Symfonia
The series was created in partnership with LOT Polish Airlines.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
chicago symphony orchestra
polish classical music
Source: press releases; compiled by AZ, Dec 2019