Artist Interview with Emil Chudnovsky
by Susan Pearl
from "QuarterNotes: News and Events of the PrinceGeorge's Philharmonic" - February 2012
Quarter Notes: The Prince George's Philharmonic is looking forward to performing with you at our February concert. And we appreciate your taking the time for this interview. May we start with a little bit about your background?
Emil Chudnovsky: I was born in Russia, but came to the United States as a child. I studied musical performance in the United States, receiving degrees from the Mannes College of Music and Yale University, and have performed in many countries of the world. Since 2009, I've been teaching at the Catholic University of America, and maintain a private studio in the Washington area.
QN: And we should mention here that you have won top prizes in nine international competitions, including First Prize from the XI International Curci Violin Competition (Naples), and most recently First Prize from the Valsesia-Musica International Violin Competition (Milan). We have read also that among your other honors you have been twice a laureate of the "Premio Paganini" International Competition. Congratulations! But now, let's talk about the Wieniawski Violin Concerto (No. 2). We are really excited about playing it with you - it will be the first time that it has been on the Philharmonic's program. Have you performed it often?
EC: Not often, and I only fairly recently added it to my repertoire. I had recorded some Wieniawski pieces - the "Polonaise" and Légende" - but did not actually perform this concerto until about five years ago. Almost immediately thereafter, I made a recording of it with the St. Petersburg Symphony in Russia, and that CD will be released soon.
QN: Wieniawski was a violinist himself, was he not?
EC: He was indeed. Actually, it's even more accurate to say that he was one of the violin's legendary titans, easily on par with Paganini. I believe it was he who premiered this concerto. Years later, he was again scheduled to perform it, but collapsed before going on stage and was unable to play. Wieniawski died soon after that at a very young age (about 45) in 1880. It's sometimes said that he died of overwork, and long ago, I gave myself a promise to avoid following his example!
QN: Tell us a little about the concerto itself - we assume that it is a favorite with you.
EC: It's a wonderful concerto, and in many ways different from the standard repertoire. We hear the fabulous Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, and Mendelssohn concerti often, but this one less frequently. In a sense, this concerto is neither fish nor fowl: it's certainly on the lighter side of concerto repertoire, unlike the Big Five just mentioned, and, like the Paganini concerti, for example, it doesn't shy away from technical flashiness. On the other hand, it's also much more substantial, and much better a composition, than your standard, slightly superficial technical showpiece. The second movement (the slow movement, entitled "Romanza" is truly beautiful, and it was often played as a single piece. But Wieniawski clearly meant the entire concerto - all three movements - to be played as a whole, something of which we can be pretty confident, due to theme-sharing. The audience can easily recognize the first movement's second theme when it returns in the third (final) movement, all the more so since Wieniawski uses it not once but twice in an otherwise pretty short movement. The gorgeous middle movement stands on its own, true, but the re-entry of first movement material in the last movement ties the whole concerto together. Another difference between this concerto and many other well-loved concerti (those of Bruch and Saint-Saëns being exceptions), this one has no cadenza.
QN: That's interesting, because this concerto was dedicated by Wieniawski to his near contemporary Pablo Sarasate, a violinist known for his technique and showmanship. Would you consider this concerto to be a particularly flamboyant or showy concerto?
EC: Wieniawski's compositions for violin combined both aspects of violin performance - the more cerebral, purely intellectual beauty, which we often refer to as "Apollonian," and also the more ecstatic and flamboyant "Dionysian" style, best exemplified in works by Paganini. In a sense, the 19th century was characterized as an ideological contest between the two, and Wieniawski had a foot in both camps; this concerto provides not only the excitement of showmanship but also the joy of pure beauty.
QN: We can hardly wait to hear you play it on February 11! Thank you so much!
Please consider attending the Prince George's Philharmonic's upcoming concerts for the year featuring performances by major African American artists; for more information - website: www.pgphilharmonic.org
Saturday, March 31, 2012 - 8:00pm
Bowie Center for the Performing Arts, Bowie, MD
Charles Ellis, Conductor - Anthony Elliott, Cello
Brahms Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90
Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 125
Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 8:00pm
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, College Park, MD
Charles Ellis Conductor - Awadagin Pratt, Piano
Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue
Gershwin “I Got Rhythm” Variations for Piano and Orchestra Shostakovich Symphony No. 10 in E Minor, Op. 93