Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Esa-Pekka Salonen: Concerto for Violin

Esa-Pekka Salonen
Esa-Pekka Salonen: Violin Concerto
Leila Josefowicz, violin
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Conducted
by Esa-Pekka Salonen
Deutsche Grammophon

I’ve been working with The Phoenix Symphony (TPS) for two seasons. Last season, I wrote and recorded eight video program notes (which were made available on the symphony’s YouTube Channel as well as on my Facebook page) and presented three lectures in association with the TPS’s Chamber Concert Series. This season my role has expanded. I will deliver self-standing lectures on Mozart and Schubert; I will join TPS music director Maestro Tito Muñoz on stage for two subscription concerts, and two weeks ago I recorded 22 video program notes for the 2018-19 season.

It took me all of August and a good bit of September to research and write those notes, which together run about 24,000 words. I can say with all due modestly that as of today, no one knows TPS’s 2018-19 concert season better than I do.

Among the great pleasures of such an assignment is learning about and listening to works I did not know beforehand: music by such living composers as Timo Andres, Jessie Montgomery, Anna Clyne and Michael Hersch. Thanks to writing these previews, I got to know (and fall in love with) Florence B. Price’s Symphony No. 1 (which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago) and Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. But truly, along with Florence Price’s symphony, my great discovery was Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Violin Concerto of 2009, which TPS will perform on February 1 and 2, 2019 with the brilliant Jennifer Koh as soloist.

I began my video program note this way:

“WOW. What a program! Classics 8 is like a meal that consists of three incredibly tasty, incredibly different main courses. There is no appetizer; there are no side dishes; no “palate fresheners”; there is no dessert, or salad, or cheese plate. 

Just three great and significant pieces by three great and significant composers: Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven and Esa-Pekka Salonen.

I know: I had you until Esa-Pekka Salonen. But I mess with you not, because his music is wonderful and his violin concerto especially so.”

Before creating my video program note for this concert, I had heard (and enjoyed) the music of Salonen before: his Piano Concerto of 2007 and a solo piano piece called Dichotomie from 2000. But I was unprepared for his violin concerto, which is simply spectacular.…

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