The Italian violin masters produced instruments capturing the tonal qualities of the human voice.
For violinist Alexi Kenney, the instrument expresses emotions more directly than his own words ever could.
Kenney will join the Santa Fe Symphony at the Lensic Performing Arts Center tonight, in Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” He’ll also perform Bach’s Double Concerto for Violin and Oboe with the symphony’s principal oboist, Elaine Heltman.
Now 22, Kenney picked up his first violin at age 4. At 12, he was performing in the youth orchestra of the San Francisco Symphony. Today he is completing his performance degree at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.
He has given recitals at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., been featured on NPR and is the recipient of top prizes at the Yehudi Menuhin International Competition, the Mondavi Center Competition and the 2013 Kronberg Academy master classes. He grew up in Palo Alto, Calif.
Possibly the most popular work in classical literature, “The Four Seasons” has resulted in more than 90 recordings.
“It’s one of those pieces that is played so often, but not unwarranted at all,” Kenney said. “Every time I look at the music, I find something so innovative that I never noticed before. You can so clearly hear what he’s trying to depict.”
Musicologists say Bach’s Double Concerto was written sometime between 1717 and 1723. An aggressive and emotional work, it boosts the violinist into the spotlight with great sweeps of triplets.
“I’ve never played it,” Kenney said. ” It’s something I’ve wanted to play for a long time. I’m a huge baroque fan.”
When he finishes at the conservatory, Kenney hopes to continue traveling and playing with various orchestras, maybe someday starting his own quartet. He says watching violinist Christian Tetzlaff perform in Kronberg, Germany, in 2014 changed his life.
“His whole mantra is to be as vulnerable as possible,” he said. “You can see his emotions coming out of the violin.”