It has long been obvious to Classical KING FM listeners and fans of the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s Summer Festival: Augustin Hadelich is one of the world’s greatest violinists. Grammy voters agreed last month, when the 31-year-old Hadelich won his first Grammy for his recording of Dutilleux’s Violin concerto (“l’Arbre des songes”) with the Seattle Symphony and conductor Ludovic Morlot. And he returns to the Seattle Symphony this week (March 24-26) for three concerto performances — great news for local music lovers.
Known for his enthusiasm for new scores, Hadelich brought David Lang’s acclaimed “Mystery Sonatas” to the SCMS Summer Festival two years ago, only weeks after their New York premiere. He also is a proponent of such composers as Ligeti, Thomas Adès, and Piazzolla, among some of his more venturesome repertoire .
Ever since his gold-medal victory ten years ago in the Indianapolis International Violin Competition, Hadelich has been considered one of the finest violinists of his generation. His further awards include an Avery Fisher Career Grant (2009), a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship in the UK (2011), and Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award (2012).
Now a U.S. citizen, he was raised by German parents in Italy, where a horrific 1999 farm accident resulted in serious burns to his upper body and face — requiring more than a year’s hiatus from the violin while the 15-year-old Augustin underwent treatment and rehabilitation. A second year of professional preparation was required before he could restart his performance career.
Hadelich moved to New York to study at the Juilliard School with Joel Smirnoff. For four years after his Indianapolis victory, Hadelich had the loan of the 1683 Ex-Gingold Stradivarius (the instrument was once owned by Russian-born violinist Josef Gingold, who founded the Indianapolis Competition). He now plays on the 1723 “Ex-Kiesewetter” Stradivari violin, on loan from Clement and Karen Arrison through the Stradivari Society of Chicago.
Here in Seattle, Hadelich arrives this week for three performances of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, possibly the best-known piece in the fiddle repertoire, and one he has recorded and frequently played. He’ll perform it with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. March 24, noon on March 25, and 8 p.m. March 26, in Benaroya Hall, with guest conductor Jesús López-Cobos on the podium.
The Tchaikovsky, composed in 1878, is such a beloved virtuoso piece that it probably will be played as long as there are violins and violinists. Hadelich, who gives the concerto the all-out, super-romantic treatment, has recently recorded it with the London Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko, and has been playing it since he was 12. Over the years, he has reexamined the Tchaikovsky score, which over the generations has been cut and altered, with some of the composer’s original indications ignored.
Hadelich hopes his audiences won’t be afraid to applaud at the end of some of the more exciting bravura passages in the Tchaikovsky Concerto, rather than waiting for the last notes of the final, third movement to sound. In his website essay, he observes:
“I will always remember the day in early 2007 when I performed the Tchaikovsky with the Fort Worth Symphony and Miguel Harth-Bedoya in front of large groups of high school students in South Lake, TX. (We repeated the performance three times in one day, for three groups of students!) These were not regular concertgoers and I found it wonderful how uninhibited they were, without much awareness nor concern about how to behave “appropriately” at a classical concert. At the end of the exposition of the first movement, where the first long violin solo ends and the orchestra plays the first theme, the students started clapping! When this music was written, it was customary for audiences to cheer whenever they liked something they were hearing (or to boo if they didn’t). And doesn’t it feel so artificial when people don't clap after the first movement of the Tchaikovsky? I found the unrestrained enthusiasm of the students very refreshing. To this day I still think back fondly to those performances whenever I play the Tchaikovsky.”
So now you have it: the soloist’s written permission to applaud when that spectacular first movement is over! After years of hearing performances of this concerto, it can be almost painful to sense the audience’s intense desire to applaud at the end of that movement, overcome by the knowledge that “one doesn’t applaud until the concerto is over.” This time, you have official approval to applaud – and this is very likely to be a performance well worth applauding.