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Our Picks

Michael's Pick: Berg Violin Concerto

You’re looking for your next concert; why not take a recommendation from one of us? Here at the Minnesota Orchestra, we’ve always got music on our minds—and upcoming programs we particularly can’t wait to hear. Communications and Development Writer Michael Divino’s got a pick for you: Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto.

Michael’s not just an administrator, he’s also a performer and academic: he earned his master’s degrees in violin performance and musicology at The Pennsylvania State University before joining our staff. So you know he knows what he’s talking about—he’d never steer you wrong when it comes to violin rep:

“This concert is going to be incredible for many reasons, but as a violinist, I’m most excited for the chance to hear James Ehnes play the Berg Violin Concerto! I heard him for the first time in 2018 playing Prokofiev and was absolutely astounded. He’s got it all—superb musicianship, an immaculate sound and best of all, the ability to make the gnarliest passages in the repertoire look and sound like child’s play.

And what better piece to display those qualities than this work? This concerto is fiendishly tricky, filled with Berg’s unique harmonic language and drenched in the composer’s grief over the death of Manon Gropius.

I came to know this work when my friend—a brilliant violinist named Mariama Alcântara—performed it on her master’s recital when we were students at Penn State. Our teacher, Jim Lyon, had had the opportunity to learn the concerto with Louis Krasner*, the violinist who premiered the work. Jim’s part was littered with Krasner’s technical pointers. This treasured piece of our teacher’s own student days guided Mariama as she tirelessly worked to learn the concerto, and she often woke before sunrise to begin practicing. I will never forget how happy both she and Jim were after her performance, and how proud I was of her for pulling off such an incredible feat. I absolutely cannot wait to hear it again!”

*Louis Krasner also served as concertmaster of the then-Minneapolis Symphony from 1944-1949.

See Michael's Pick