This week, the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic, led by Cornelius Meister, plays the Violin Concerto by Sir Edward Elgar – with Frank Peter Zimmerman as soloist – and Dvořák’s Symphony No 6 in a concert with the subtitle Pride and Dignity.
Meister, of whom the Financial Times says: “… proved himself a master of conducting not just the players but the audience too”, has been Music Director of the Staatsoper und Staatsorchester Stuttgart since 2018. Recipient of numerous awards – including the OPUS Klassik in the category ‘Conductor of the Year’, and the Diapason d’or – he performs symphonies by Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Sibelius, and also rarely heard works and world premieres.
Orchestras which he has led include the Concertgebouworkest, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre de l’Opéra National de Paris, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and he has appeared at the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra in New York. As an opera conductor, he conducts productions at the Vienna State Opera, the Metropolitan Opera New York and the Opéra National de Paris.
Violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann has been performing with the world’s major orchestras for well over three decades, collaborating with renowned conductors, and appearing in concert venues and music festivals in Europe, the United States, Asia, South America and Australia. Highlights of his current season include engagements with the Münchner Philharmoniker, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Wiener Symphoniker, Orchestre National de France, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, and Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI.
In 2010 he formed the Trio Zimmermann with viola player Antoine Tamestit and cellist Christian Poltéra which performed in all major music centres and festivals in Europe. As well as being a prolific recording artist, Mr Zimmermann has given four world premieres: Magnus Lindberg’s Violin Concerto No 2 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Jaap van Zweden, the violin concerto en sourdine by Matthias Pintscher with the Berliner Philharmoniker led by Peter Eötvös, the violin concerto The Lost Art of Letter Writing by Brett Dean, with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducted by the composer, and the Violin Concerto No 3 Juggler in Paradise by Augusta Read Thomas with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France with Andrey Boreyko.
The Royal Philharmonic Society commissioned a Violin Concerto from Edward Elgar in 1909 – a time when he was at the height of his composing life. The Concerto received its premiere at the Philharmonic Society Concert given in London’s Queen’s Hall on 10th November, 1910, with Elgar himself conducting. The soloist was renowned violinist Fritz Kreisler, to whom the Concerto was dedicated and of whom Elgar was a great admirer.
Elgar, however, loved including a mystery in some of his works – as in his Variations on an Original Theme, subtitled the Enigma Variations, and the Violin Concerto B minor, op 61 was no exception. Included in the manuscript were the Spanish words “Aqui está encerrada el alma de …..” “Herein is enshrined the soul of …..” (a quotation from the novel Gil Blas by Alain-René Lesage), and to this day the conundrum does not appear to have been completely solved. There are three theories as to the name of the person involved. Alice Stuart-Wortley was one (whom Elgar nicknamed “Windflower”), who shared a name with his wife, Alice. Helen Weaver, a young violinist who was his first love, was another suggestion, but even though they were engaged, she broke up with him after the death of her mother, and emigrated to New Zealand. The third possibility is that the soul enshrined in this lovely work is that of its composer – Elgar himself.
Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No 6 in D major, Op. 60, B. 112, was composed in 1880, and premiered on 25th March 1881. It was dedicated to Hans Richter, the conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and the person who had commissioned the work. Richter appeared to be very enthusiastic about it, but the premiere which was planned for December 1880, was postponed so many times that Dvořák had the Symphony premiered in Prague, by the Czech Theatre Orchestra, under the direction of Adolf Čech. Richter eventually gave the work its London premiere in 1882, where it became very popular with the British public. Although the Symphony is said to have echoes of the symphonic tradition of Brahms (whom Dvořák admired), it not only drew attention to the composer himself, but also to Czech music.
Cornelius Meister leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of the Elgar Violin Concerto – with Frank Peter Zimmerman as soloist – and Dvořák’s Symphony No 6. The concert takes place in the Auditorium Rainier III in Monaco on Friday 12th May at 20h00.