The Delaware Symphony Orchestra kicks of its 2016-17 season tonight with star power when it presents the A. I. duPont Composer’s Award to legendary composer-pianist-conductor Andre Previn.
The concert will include a performance of his Double Concerto for Violin and Cello by violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson. The work was commissioned for the married duo by eight orchestras, including the Cincinnati Symphony where it was premiered in 2014. The Delaware performance marks the first time it will be performed outside the commissioning consortium.
“I just think it’s going to be fantastic for Wilmington and for the Delaware Symphony,” says DSO Executive Director Alan Jordan. “Previn is already a legendary figure. He’s one of the few real household names in classical music.”
At 87, Previn is considered one of the world’s most versatile and least easily categorized musicians. The Previn catalog includes musicals, an operetta, a variety of popular songs, film scores, concert music and two operas: “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1998) and “Brief Encounter” (2009). He has composed for the likes of John Williams, Itzhak Perlman, Janet Baker, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Renee Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma and his former wife, Anne-Sophie Mutter.
His honors include four Academy Awards and ten Grammy Awards. He is also an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
“I think there are very few people in this world who are so really good at the various things that they do,” says Laredo “Certainly Leonard Bernstein was one and I think Andre Previn definitely fits right into that mold. He’s disgustingly talented.”
Robinson recalls the first time she met Previn as a teenager. He was music director of the Houston Symphony when her parents were in the orchestra. “He was such a glamorous figure,” she recalls. “I think his wife at the time was Mia Farrow. He just brought a lot of pizzazz to what was a little bit of a staid classical music world.”
Their professional collaboration didn’t occur until 2011 when Previn composed his Piano Trio No. 2 for their chamber ensemble which includes pianist Joseph Kalichstein. Laredo recalls Previn was so impressed with the world premiere which took place in 2012 at New York’s Alice Tully Hall and the fact that the duo had done so much to enlarge the double concerto repertoire that he offered to write another concerto for them.
To their amazement, they received the finished product six months ahead of schedule. “He’s a great writer and a very facile writer from his Hollywood days,” says Robinson.
Laredo says Previn is the only composer they’ve ever worked with whose scores arrive without any dynamic markings. “He likes the idea of working with the players and figuring out what should be slurred and what should be separated, what should be piano and what should be forte, and so on,” he says.
So what’s it like to work with a living composer?
“It’s wonderful,” says Laredo. “We spend our time trying to figure out what did Beethoven really want, what did he mean. I wonder what Brahms meant and so on. We try to put ourselves in their heads and here we just ask.”
DSO Music Director David Amado shares that view. “On the one hand it’s unnerving,” he says. “On the other hand, it’s really nice because if there’s a question during rehearsal, you can turn to whoever’s there and ask. You don’t have to guess.”
Laredo and Robinson have performed the concerto eight times both in the U.S. and in Europe and that audience response has been very positive. “It’s got remarkable rhythms, energy and beautiful, beautiful melodies,” says Laredo. “But I must say the second movement is just on of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.”
Robinson agrees. “The outer movements have a lot of drive and energy but the slow movement is so breathtakingly gorgeous.”
The concerto will be paired with a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.
More information:What: The Delaware Symphony Orchestra, Classics SeriesWhen: September 23, 7:30 p.m., Pre-concert discussion: 6:30 p.m.Where: The Grand Opera House, 800 N. Market Street, WilmingtonTo purchase tickets: www.ticketsatthegrand.org or call 302-652-5577 or 800-374-7263www.delawaresymphony.org