Violin virtuoso Viviane Hagner makes her debut with Sarasota Orchestra on this season's Masterworks 5 concert, with performances running January 31 to February 3. While Hagner is known for her dedication to new music, critics also laud her seemingly effortless renditions of monumental works for solo violin. Hagner provides two European ports-of-call on this concert's "Round Trip to Paris": Henri Vieuxtemps' Violin Concerto No. 5, and Camille Saint-Saëns' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso for violin and orchestra, both widely regarded as virtuosic masterpieces.
"To me, Saint-Saëns' Rondo Capriccioso is the epitome of elegance and virtuosity," Hagner says in anticipation of presenting this work to Sarasota audiences. "Saint-Saëns composed the various characters within the piece with such incredible grace, from melancholic to capricious to somewhat morbid or sparkly. I admire this piece every time I get a chance to perform it."
Saint-Saëns' high regard for violinist Pablo de Sarasate inspired three of the six works the composer created for solo violin and orchestra. At the time of the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso's publication in 1863, Sarasate was a teenage phenomenon whose impeccable tone and technique were taking Europe by storm. In dedicating this concertante to his talented young friend, Saint-Saëns bestowed a gift on future generations of violin virtuosi—provided they have the gifts necessary to take on the challenge!
Hagner says it's rewarding to perform Romantic works for the violin, the melodic nature of the instrument making it particularly suitable for the repertoire of the era. And when a Romantic composer happens to excel at composing for a violinist, her delight in performing their works increases exponentially. A violin virtuoso of his day, Vieuxtemps premiered his fifth violin concerto himself in 1861. While Saint-Saëns was renowned as a pianist and organist, he welcomed input from Sarasate in the composition of the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.
"It always feels good to play pieces that are particularly well-written for an instrument," Hagner says. "For example, the Brahms violin concerto, a major work in the violin repertoire, is not exactly 'well-written' for the violin, which doesn't make it any weaker as a piece, of course. But if you take a piece like Saint-Saëns' Rondo Capriccioso, a violinist can appreciate how well it is written for the instrument and for being such good music."
Hagner's experiential breadth and depth of feeling vivify her performance of Romantic masterworks, composed by and for the world's leading musicians of the age. Saint-Saëns and Vieuxtemps captured the sheer joy of achieving the heights of violin virtuosity, which Hagner's upcoming performance promises to unlock and freely share with Masterworks audiences.