ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Grammy-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich began playing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto when he was 9 years oid.
The Italian-born musician says that early start doesn’t make it any easier.
Hadelich will perform the piece regarded as one of the greatest of its kind at Santa Fe’s Lensic Performing Arts Center on New Year’s Eve with the Performance Santa Fe Orchestra.
Written in 1844, the concerto has developed a reputation as an essential piece for all aspiring concert violinists to master, and is usually one of the first Romantic-era concertos they learn.
“This has always been one of the most popular and beloved violin concertos and one of the most played pieces on the violin,” Hadelich said in a telephone interview from his New York home. “I’ve always loved the piece.
“It was very groundbreaking when it was written. He wanted to write a piece that showed the virtuosity of the violinist. It’s an extremely exciting concerto in which there’s different ideas and melodies chasing each other in a wonderful way.”
Hadelich began playing the violin at 5.
“I remember that it was very bad,” he said of those first screeching notes. “At that age, I didn’t think so much about it. I just kept going. When I heard some great violin players for the first time, I realized how good it could sound. Later on, I started playing the piano as well. But the violin was my favorite instrument, because it’s so beautiful and lyrical.”
Hadelich’s career is all the more remarkable because he nearly died in a fire at age 15. The flames devoured the family home and part of him, scorching his face, his abdomen and his bow arm. He didn’t pick up his instrument for six months. At first, he was afraid he had forgotten how to play, but it all came flooding back.
“It was a really difficult time, obviously,” he said. “It was actually surprisingly easy to return.”
After his recovery, Hadelich successfully auditioned for admission to the Juilliard School, studying there from 2004 to 2007. He won first prize at the International Violin Competition in Indianapolis in 2006 and went on to play with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony, among others.
He won the 2016 Grammy for Best Classical Instrumental Solo.
Hadelich last performed in New Mexico in Las Cruces about 10 years ago.
“There are some pieces I don’t really get tired of,” he said of the Mendelssohn. “Audiences love it and are very moved by it. I do get tired of practicing it.”
The orchestra also will play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, led by conductor Joe Illick.