Digital Concert: Diana Adamyan, violin 

Renana Gutman, piano 
Virtual Concert

Available for on demand viewing from Saturday December 9, 2023 at 8:00pm until Friday December 15th, 2023 at 7:00 PM ET.

Diana Adamyan is quickly gaining an international reputation as one of her generation’s most outstanding violinists. After winning First Prize at the 2018 Yehudi Menuhin International Competition, the world’s most prestigious prize for young violinists, she went on to receive First Prize in the 2020 Khachaturian Violin Competition. 

Her competition triumphs have led to a wave of appearances across Europe and Japan. She made her Boston debut in 2022 as the soloist in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor for the 69th Annual Armenian Night at the POPS.  

“Diana Adamyan is a name you will hear again….following her career promises to be a joy,” wrote Seen and Heard International. Be there when this phenomenal young artist makes her Boston recital debut.  

Program Details

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his Sonata in B-flat Major, K. 378 (317d) in his early twenties, a period that contains the first of his masterpieces and showcases his first significant innovations in composition. Common to a lot of Mozart, the ease that characterizes the piece is, rather than an essential characteristic, a clever trick masking the depth of its complexity.  
 
The first movement is representative of Mozart’s extraordinary ability to string together contrasting themes. Though the movement is in well-trod sonata allegro form, the content feels fresh, avoiding predictable patterns associated with lesser composers of the era. The transition between the flowing first theme and the animated second is never halting, and exceptional for its own several stitched-together motifs. The second movement, more a piano showcase, is a virtuosic exploration of instrumental color. Even the simple piano accompaniment when the violin finally takes prominence midway is expressive in its tight, sidling clusters. The third movement is a sprightly rondo, a form built on contrast. The first section is in perpetual motion, consistently subverting expectations to stop or resolve. The first contrasting section in minor presents a shift in mood, but essentially develops the material from the first theme. As the first section repeats and the listener acclimates to its gestures, Mozart shifts to an entirely different rhythmic pattern in three, forcing them to confront an almost entirely new composition. Though this high-octane burst feels like it should hurry us to the end, the first section returns, its contrast this time making it feel new again. The piece ends assuredly, grounded but curiously fresh.

©Connor Buckley, 2023

Intimacy and expressiveness are the primary goals in the Five Pieces, Op. 81, by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). They are salon pieces, a still popular and lucrative 19th-century genre when Sibelius wrote them in the second decade of the 20th century. They are best performed where they were intended, in a small room with a small audience, or maybe simply at home with a friend. Though they still contain moments for the instrumentalists to impress, these pieces are not, like often in the era of Chopin, demonstrations of dexterous technique. They are meant to please and occasionally to wow. 

The first piece is a punchy mazurka, a dance form in three that Sibelius uses to showcase the drama of the violin. Many jumps in register present the color of the instrument distilled, while the piano punctuates and adds variety to the standard form melody. The second piece (rondino) and third piece (waltz) are pure charm and lightness. The aubade, a piece meant to evoke daybreak, glows at the beginning with its subtly surprising sequence of chords, like a cozy wake-up alarm or a colorful sunrise. A more rapid theme in three appears that, like the rest of the pieces, never pushes its intensifying too far so as not to detract from the melody and form. The final piece, a minuet, is the most daring, its subtle march-like first theme relenting to a more rhapsodic, unpredictable trio section, ending the Op. 81 in a kind of passionate stateliness. 

© Connor Buckley, 2023

The first thing one notices when listening to the Sibelius Four Humoresques, Op. 89, is how much the composer loved the violin. The variation in textures in just the first few seconds is a dazzling showcase of his joy in and his knowledge of what the instrument can do. It is a vestige of Sibelius’ aspirations as a young man to be a concert violinist. Perhaps fortunately for the world, he did not succeed. He instead cultivated some of the most beloved works for violin in the repertoire from his idyllic home in Järvenpää, Finland. 

Sibelius’ passion is not only evident from the music, but also from his rather theatrical observation about the piece and its sibling the Op. 87 Two Humoresques: that they reflect "the anguish of existence . . . fitfully lit up by the sun." However excessive his comment, fitful is the exact word for this collection. Of the four, the third Humoresque is the most outwardly playful, a sort of march and folk dance that rapidly alternates between boisterousness and buoyancy.  

© Connor Buckley, 2023

Edvard Baghdasaryan was an Armenian composer of great distinction. In his home country, he was an important figure in the development of modern concert music as part of the generation before the more internationally well-known Aram Khachaturian. His work for piano is especially respected, his 24 preludes a touchstone of Armenian concert music. Apart from writing several major orchestral works and teaching at the Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory, Baghdasaryan was also a soundtrack composer who wrote music for one of Armenia’s classic films, Tjvjik.

Baghdasaryan’s 1958 composition Rhapsody for violin and piano, also known as the Armenian Rhapsody, is one of his most important and well-regarded works. Though a through-composed piece, its knit together contrasting sections make it seem like a summarized concerto akin to something like Samuel Barber’s first symphony – it is a single movement meant to do the work of several. The piece begins enigmatically, almost melancholic, as the listener can’t be sure where, or if, the succession of chords will resolve. They do suddenly as the violin assumes prominence with a more romantically tinged melody. After a solo virtuosic display, the violin leads with a plaintive melody in minor, the first moment that feels planned rather than improvised. Suddenly, midway through the piece, the piano enthusiastically hammers out an up-tempo Armenian dance. As the rest of the piece unfolds, the first part of the composition retrospectively becomes an extended introduction. Themes that once showed up extemporaneously are now understood to be a part of several danceable melodies. The performers cycle through several dances before rather abruptly returning to the mood from the first half. Mysterious chords reminiscent of the start return, leading to the expectation of a musical palindrome. Suddenly, though, the piano plays an ascending whole-tone scale, reminiscent of a dream sequence from an old film, and the piece fades to conclusion. 

© Connor Buckley, 2023

The work of Camille Saint-Saëns altogether possesses an air of fluidity and self-possession that, like Mozart’s work, makes it feel inevitable. No alternative sequence of notes feels like it would be sufficient. He was one of the most impressive prodigies in the history of European music, and one who, with brilliant pieces like his Violin Sonata No. 1, Op. 75, made good on the promise of his youth. Saint-Saëns’ reputation as a conservative feels curious here: though it repurposes formal innovations from the recent past, the sonata demands a level of virtuosity from both performers that is still somewhat alarming today.  

The sonata is in two sections subdivided into four movements so that the first two and final two movements are played through unbroken. The first movement spares nothing from the start. The first theme is puzzle-like and winding, made hypnotic by its insistent repetition of an arpeggiated figure. A sure sounding second theme follows, a more traditional Romantic melody that will become a prominent motif throughout the piece. The densely textured piano accompaniment constantly churns, no less virtuosic than the violin, and pushes the piece toward each next stage of development. The first theme recurs throughout the movement and acts as primary contrapuntal material, threading the violin and piano together inextricably. The Adagio begins poignantly with a slowed version of the original arpeggiated figure and continues to play with augmented versions of material from the Allegro agitato. When the violin reaches its height in the middle of the movement, it feels so natural and unplanned that its deliberate planning becomes remarkable evidence of Saint-Saëns’ skill as a composer.

©Connor Buckley, 2023

“One of the new generation’s most promising and gifted young concert soloists. ”

The Violin Channel

The 2023/24 Debut Series is generously supported by
Susanne Marcus Collins Foundation.

This performance is made possible in part by support from Celebrity Series' LIVE PERFORMANCE! Arts for All Endowment and Innovation Funds, with generous leadership support from Peter & Anna Kolchinsky.

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