Among the current crop of talented virtuoso violinists, Leonidas Kavakos chose a particularly interesting path to distinguishing his knowledge of Jean Sibelius’ Opus 47 concerto in D minor. Working with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Osmo Vänskä, he mastered not only the final version of this concerto, which Sibelius completed in 1905, but also that composer’s original 1904 version. Both performances were recorded and released side-by-side on a single BIS CD. As a result, whenever Kavakos returns to this concerto, he brings with him knowledge of not only what that concerto is but also how it came to be. Since much of performance tends to involve both recognizing and communicating where the major “moments of significance” reside, Kavakos tends to be better prepared than most other violinists.
Next month he will bring that special knowledge to Davies Symphony Hall, when he will perform the final version of that concerto with Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) conducting the San Francisco Symphony (SFS). Kavakos has been a visitor to Davies since March of 1994, when he made his recital debut there as part of a series of SFS programs called Debuts at Davies. His most recent concerto appearance with SFS took place in January of 2011, when he performed Sergei Prokofiev’s Opus 63 (second) concerto in G minor with David Robertson on the podium.
To introduce this concerto performance, MTT has selected a shorter Sibelius selection, “The Swan of Tuonela,” particularly noted for its extended lyrical solo for the English horn. “The Swan of Tuonela” is the second of four tone poems based on legends from Kalevala that Sibelius published collectively as his Lemminkäinen Suite (Opus 22). The second half of the program will consist entirely of Robert Schumann’s Opus 97 (third) symphony in E-flat major, called the “Rhenish” for its evocation of both the Rhine River and the sights along its banks. Next month’s performances will begin a season-long performance and recording cycle of all four of Schumann’s symphonies.
This program will receive three performances in Davies. They will take place at 8 p.m. on Friday, November 13, and Saturday, November 14, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 15. Ticket prices range from $15 to $165. Tickets may be purchased through the event page for this concert on the SFS Web site. They may also be purchased at the Davies Box Office on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street or by calling 415-864-6000. The Inside Music pre-concert talk will be given by Scott Foglesong one hour prior to each performance. This event is free to all ticket holders, and the doors open fifteen minutes before the lecture begins. In addition a free podcast by KDFC’s Rik Malone about Schuman’s symphony will be available for live streaming from the Program Note Podcasts Web page.