Back at the beginning of this year's Summer Festival, 55 Music Academy of the West fellows vied with one another — musically — to be eligible to perform in the Concerto Night competition finals on July 2-3. The 21 finalists were winnowed down to three winners in the competition, and they will strut their stuff at 8 p.m. this Saturday in the Granada Theatre.
The Festival Orchestra will be conducted by Joshua Weilerstein, who was himself a Music Academy fellow — and Concerto Night soloist — not so long ago (2007 and 2008) and has now become one of two New York Philharmonic assistant conductors.
Horn player Trevor Nuckols will open the Concerto Night program as soloist in Wolfgang Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 2 in Eb-Major, K. 417 (1783); then violinist Danbi Um takes the solo in the first movement of William Walton’s Violin Concerto in B-Minor (1937-1938); followed by pianist Micah McLaurin fronting the orchestra for movements two and three of Frederic Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F-Minor, Opus 21 (1830).
The evening will conclude with Maestro Weilerstein conducting the Festival Orchestra in a performance of Peter Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E-Minor, Opus 64 (1888).
Jascha Heifetz commissioned the Walton concerto in 1936 and premiered it on Dec. 7, 1939, in Cleveland before the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Artur Rodziński. He made at least two recordings of the work, one in 1942, with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conducted by Eugene Goossens, and the other in 1950, with the composer conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Of course, the name "Heifetz" goes far in getting one's composition established international concert halls, but if the concerto would not have been written had it not been for Heifetz, it made it entirely on its own merits into the select group of permanent residents of the 20th century concerto repertory. The first movement, marked "Andante tranquillo," has no trouble standing alone as a concerted "poem" for soloist and orchestra, like those of Chausson or Griffes. From the first bars, it is obvious what the conductor Raymond Leppard meant when he said that what he would miss most about Walton was "his tunes." Take away Walton's extraordinary gift for writing beautiful, original melodies, and you are left Benjamin Britten.
Tickets to Concerto Night are $48, $38 and $15. They can be purchased by phone at 805.969.8787 or online by clicking here. Tickets are also available from the Granada box office at 805.899.2222.