We had the pleasure of talking with soloist Stephanie Chase about her upcoming performance in New York Scandia Symphony’s The Danish Golden Age, May 4, at Symphony Space.
We asked Ms. Chase what she finds inspiring or unusual about the violin piece that she will be performing at the concert.
Her response follows…
Niels Gade wrote this Violin Concerto in 1880, when he was about 63 years old, so it is a mature work for him. Although this is the first time I am playing his music, I have known of Gade’s name for a number of years, mainly through his friendship with Felix Mendelssohn and the respect that Mendelssohn and other well-known musicians had for him, and he was evidently the most prominent Danish musician in his time.
This concerto encompasses both Classical and Romantic traditions, and it quite reminiscent of Mendelssohn at times in its flowing lines and elegantly deft virtuosity. Because he was an accomplished violinist, Gade writes well for the instrument, and his music presents a variety of sentiments. The first movement has a somewhat melancholic but impassioned character that is offset by a majestic second theme. It also has an accompanied cadenza, which is unusual. A traditional cadenza – which comes from the word “cadence” – is a section in which the soloist “improvises” alone on music found in the main body of a movement.
The second movement is a beautiful Romance which, as a musical genre, refers not only to a pastoral mood but also a form, in which the theme returns with a variety of subtle differences. Halfway through, however, the music becomes very dramatic and virtuosic, including a passage that takes me to the very top note of the violin!
The last movement is a Rondo scherzando.“Rondo” means a musical round, like “Row, row, row, your boat,” and “scherzando” means with humor, so it is quite lighthearted but for a heroic second theme and a dramatic turn that is marked con fuoco, or “played with fire.”
For performer and listener alike, this Violin Concerto offers a rich experience although, unfortunately, it remains relatively unknown and apparently had its New York premiere only in 1988!
Its first movement in particular reminds me somewhat of another favorite work, Henri Vieuxtemps’ Fifth Violin Concerto, composed about 20 years earlier, and it turns out that they likely knew each other from soirees at the home of Fanny Mendelssohn.
I have Dorrit Matson to thank for introducing me to this lovely work. Maestra Matson is the founder and, of course, conductor of the New York Scandia Symphony, which for nearly thirty years has championed music by Scandinavian composers. I am one-fourth Norwegian, so that part of me also appreciates her mission, and I am looking forward to performing this music with her and the orchestra at Symphony Space, which is one of New York’s premiere cultural arts venues.
Stephanie Chase is internationally recognized as “one of the violin greats of our era” (Newhouse Newspapers) through solo appearances with over 170 orchestras that include the New York and Hong Kong Philharmonics and the Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Baltimore, and London Symphony Orchestras. Her interpretations are acclaimed for their “elegance, dexterity, rhythmic vitality and great imagination” (Boston Globe), “stunning power” (Louisville Courier-Journal), “matchless technique” (BBC Music Magazine), and “virtuosity galore” (Gramophone).
Ms. Chase is represented by Carrie Feiner Enterprises. Learn more about Ms, Chase on her website.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Chase.