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The first violin concerto composed by Elena Kats-Chernin is premiered by Emily Sun and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra on 21 April. Entitled Fantasie im Wintergarten, the concerto references a Berlin fairground venue, weaving a story of love and betrayal.

Though Elena Kats-Chernin has composed three piano concertos to date, her new Fantasie im Wintergarten is her first violin concerto. The work was commissioned by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, generously supported by Mary Lou Simpson OAM, and the orchestra gives its first performances on 21 and 22 April at the Town Hall in Adelaide, the latest in a series of close collaborations with the composer launched in the mid-1990s. Violin soloist is Australian virtuoso Emily Sun, the ASO’s current Artist in Association, and conductor Benjamin Northey is on the rostrum.

Cast in three movements, the 25-minute work features a recurring four-note tango motive, together with blues-like material, salon music and circus-like themes, which reach a fatal climax in the final movement, followed by a mournful lament. In an interview with Limelight magazine, Kats-Chernin described how “the style of the piece is what you might call a synthesis of 1920s sensibility with its punchy rhythms, dance and blues elements, muted brass and clanky percussion sounds as well as salon music flavours. At the core of this violin concerto is a tense, mysterious and suspenseful, sometimes abstracted atmosphere and I would almost call it a ‘Fantasy Elegy’.”

Elena Kats-Chernin explains how the concerto “was inspired by some of the ideas from a 1920s German silent film. At the core of the film is a tragic human story of love and betrayal that takes place inside the fairground and circus world, most of the show scenes performed at a renowned Berlin venue that still exists today, called Wintergarten.”

“For this concerto, I felt that I could build upon such contrasting themes as light and shadow, tango and chaos, showy or surreal atmosphere, yearning, lyrical or foreboding: all those opposing or related themes would give Emily a great vehicle to showcase virtuosity, and edgy sounds, as well as heartbreakingly poetic suspended lines. From the textural point of view the violin writing moves between soloistic, and prima inter pares in a symphonic way.”

Soloist Emily Sun writes: “It is a thrill to be performing the world premiere of Elena Kats-Chernin’s violin concerto. I have always loved Elena’s music - there is something very honest and generous about the way that she connects with music. Of course, as a violinist, there is no shortage of concertos, but I think it is very important that we are always playing and creating music that is relevant to us today, music that reflects our society and the world around us. I have no doubt that Elena Kats-Chernin’s new violin concerto will become a very important part of the violin repertoire, and it is a huge privilege and responsibility for us to bring that to life with Maestro Benjamin Northey and the ASO.”

Elena Kats-Chernin is currently at work on two children’s operas: Nils Holgersson to be premiered at the Komische Oper in Berlin in November and a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens to be premiered at the Luxembourg Philharmonie in December. Her earlier children’s opera Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver receives its Swiss premiere at the Zürich Opera in December. She is also composing a new double concerto for violin, cello and orchestra, commissioned by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for premiere in October.

>  Further information on Work: Fantasie im Wintergarten

Photo: Bruria Hammer

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