Finnish composer Jean Sibelius’ Violin Concerto is notoriously complicated.
The descriptors most commonly applied to it include “fiendish,” “devilish,” and “incredibly demanding.”
The piece will be the final of three performed by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra with violinist Satu Vanska at Mona Foma, and it’s one Vanska is looking forward to tackling in the “beautiful” Albert Hall.
“It’s dark and brooding and full of inner fire,” she said.
“It’s one of the most important pieces of the romantic era. I hope people can enjoy the dazzle and the virtuosity, and the strength, and the timelessness.”
Sibelius is one of Finland’s most celebrated composers, but he had more luck with arrangements than playing the violin himself.
He channelled his frustrations with the instrument into the writing of the concerto, said Vanska, in creating a work that is as technically difficult as it is emotionally powerful.
“He deliberately made it very hard as a sort of revenge,” she said.
“I was about 18 when I first performed it. It’s always a nerve-wracking experience, and it’s like running a big marathon: quite physically exhausting, as well as mentally.”
Vanska has performed with the Munich Philharmonic and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, before taking up the position of lead violinist with the Australian Symphony Orchestra in 2004.
She is also the curator, frontwoman, violinist and vocalist of ACO Underground, the ACO’s electro-infused, experimental spin-off band.
And the violin she will play on at Mona Foma is as impressive as her resume.
An instrument made in 1726 by master craftsman Stradivarius, it is one of the most valuable violins in the world.
“He made about 2000 violins and about 600 have survived,” Vanska said.
“To have a violin that has such historic significance … but of course it’s the sound that makes it so great, and it comes into its own when you’re playing a big concerto like Sibelius.”
Along with Violin Concerto, Vanska and the TSO will perform Einojuhani Rautavaara Cantus Arcticus’ Concerto for Birds and Orchestra, and Kaija Saariaho’s de la terre.
- Satu Vanska and the TSO at Albert Hall on Saturday, January 19, at 1pm, $36.
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