Alina Pogostkina (violin) • Conductor: Marin Alsop
Jean Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 in C major “Leningrad”
The American Marin Alsop was born to be a musician; by the age of ten she already knew she wanted to be a conductor. Even though she’s sometimes shocked by how she, as a woman, can still be making history, that’s just what she did at the 2013 Proms when she conducted the closing concert. She’s now marking another first as she becomes the first woman to direct the BFO.
Marin Alsop has chosen the masterful violin concerto in D minor, the only concerto Sibelius ever wrote, as the concert’s opening piece. The Finnish composer dedicated the work to the then 12-year-old Hungarian prodigy Ferenc Vecsey, who played it with breathtaking virtuosity, if not without fault. According to many, the third movement is the greatest concerto segment ever written for violin. British musicologist Donald Tovey compared it to a “polonaise for polar bears”, while others have heard the sounds of a pitched battle. The young Russian-German violinist Alina Pogostkina will be performing this challenging, original, and highly refreshing piece. She gave her first concert when she was five, and won the 2005 International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition with this masterpiece of his.
“Most of my symphonies are tombstones” said Shostakovich, for whom the sound of battle and the relentless rhythms of war that can be heard in his Seventh Symphony were not mere fantasy. He wrote the piece at the beginning of the siege of Leningrad. The horrors of the invasion, the atrocities committed by the invaders, the tears, the pain, the false nostalgia and the taste of victory all come together to mature into a heavy, characteristic mixture. The story of the symphony’s 1942 Leningrad première is chilling. The musicians were all skin and bones from starvation as they played, the conductor had even had to remove the percussionist from the morgue where he’d been accidentally placed while still being alive, but the symphony was performed. It was broadcast live on radio and at full volume through the city’s PA system, to let the Germans know that Leningrad was alive.