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REVIEW: Sibelius violin concerto crowns Santa Fe Symphony program

SANTA FE, N.M. — Ripe with intrigue, bruised egos and self-flagellation, Sibelius’ sole violin concerto crowns the Santa Fe Symphony program at the Lensic Performing Arts Center Sunday, April 12.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful concerto,” symphony general directory Greg Heltman said. “It was only released by the Sibelius family in 1991. Sibelius was incredibly self-critical.”

The original soloist backed out of the 1904 premier, Heltman said. Sibelius had barely finished the piece when another violinist signed on, giving him little rehearsal time. As a result, the premiere was a disaster.

“It’s become a real standard of the repertoire because it’s such a wonderful piece,” Heltman said.

In Santa Fe, Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition winner Alexi Kenney will helm the solo. The concert also marks the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

Guest conductor Ryan McAdams will lead the musicians through Dvorák’s lively Slavonic dances and its anchoring masterpieces: Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 and the Sibelius.

In 2010, McAdams was the first-ever recipient of the Sir Georg Solti Emerging Conductor Award. Solti was the longtime music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A Fulbright scholar, McAdams has led operatic and symphonic orchestras across the globe.

“We’re trying him out,” Heltman said. He was referring to a certain job opening: principal conductor of the Santa Fe Symphony. “He seems very, very enthusiastic,” he added.

Heltman had long wanted to program the Sibelius and tapped Kenney after watching him perform the piece in a YouTube video.

“He’s 21 now and he’s performed around the world,” Heltman said. “He definitely has a musical maturity that belies his age. He brings an enthusiasm and brightness to the performance that reflects being young.”

The Brahms Symphony No. 1 is one Santa Fe has not played in many years, Heltman said.

“I think it’s fascinating that Brahms — as self-critical as Sibelius was — he was more so,” he added. “Brahms said it took him 21 years to compose this symphony.”

At the time, the popular press was pouring on the pressure by calling the composer “the next Beethoven.” A famous critic even referred to the symphony as “Beethoven’s 10th.”

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