Edo de Waart Conducts CSO Review – Disparate Adams and Mozart Pairing Enthralls and Keeps Us On our Toes

Conductor Edo de Waart is chief conductor of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, among many other associations with the world's top orchestras


Following the format of the CSO’s Afterwork Masterworks series, the CSO under Edo de Waart’s baton played two pieces – Mozart’s “Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K.219 (Turkish Concerto)” and Adams’ “Harmonielehre:-- followed by an engaging discussion with both the conductor and violin soloist, Augustin Hadelich. 


Augustin Hadelich wrote cadenzas for the Turkish Concerto for which he soloed


One had to smile when the moderator of the post-performance talk, Cristina Rocca, who is the CSO VP of Artistic Planning, asked her first question, which was likely top of mind for nearly all audience members.  She asked, , to paraphrase, “How did this pairing of two such different pieces get chosen for this program?”


Augustin Hadelich plays a Stradivari violin on loan from the Stradivari Society of Chicago


What she was referring to was the trademark melodic Mozart work juxtaposed to the quickly changing rhythms and highly repetitive “Harmonielehre”, which Adams described in the program notes as one “that marries the developmental techniques of minimalism with the harmonic and expressive world of fin de siècle late romanticism.” 


A gold medalist in the 2006 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, Hadelich had lost more than a year of playing when he suffered extensive burns when his family farm burned in Italy


De Waart’s explanation was more or less that this eclectic pairing of Mozart and Adams was more a matter of happenstance than the result of a decision to ensure that the audiences’ ears were stretched and tingled by music born in such different worlds. 


Hadelich is now a US citizen who calls New York city his home


De Waart highlighted the disparate nature of these pieces by commenting on his importance as the conductor for each.   He suggested to soloist Hadelich, of whom he shared that CSO members simply adore, that Hadelich should try doing the piece next time without a conductor at all.  On the other hand, of the Adams  work, de Waart said, “While in many other pieces the conductor isn’t necessary, in “Harmonielehre” if I screw up it will come to a crashing halt.  There are so many repeats.  I’ve done this 50 or 60 times and thankfully it’s never crashed to a halt yet, but it takes enormous concentration on my part to make sure that is so—with so many meter changes…”.


For the Adams piece, the full orchestra performed, including an expanded percussion section, horns, trumpets, trombones, piccolos and more


De Waart’s enthusiasm for both Hadelich’s performance and Adams’ work was apparent and contagious. 


De Waart is also a close personal friend of composter John Adams


Of Hadelich’s cadenzas for the Mozart “Turkish Concerto” and his energetic performance, de Waart explained that the conductor relies on the soloist to communicate his or her intentions for the cadenza embellishments and when the orchestra should comesback in.  De Waart commented, “..the cadenzas are the soloist’s choice and he gives the music to me….What’s so wonderful about playing with Augustin is that he also telegraphs what is coming up with his body language..”


For his part, Hadelich made comments, all seemingly very sincere, that made it sound like writing and performing these magnificent cadenzas and playing a solo part in such a concerto was as simple as pie.  He shared, “I had a great time writing the cadenzas.  It taught me a great deal about the piece..”  


Later, continuing to minimize the feat he had just accomplished,  Hadelich answered a question on how difficult it was to remember each score by saying, “Every piece of music you memorize makes it easier to do the next one.  You get better at that kind of memory..”


The way he tells it, De Waart’s enthusiasm for Adams’ work is augmented by his high personal regard for Adams as a human being.  De Waart recounted, “When I came to San Francisco I asked around for names of American  composers beyond Copland..  It took about eight months and then someone suggested I contact this guy who teaches theory at the San Francisco Conservatory


“We met and when John (Adams) walked in, it was love at first sight.  He is a wonderful human being with a great sense of music and a good ear for what is good.  Every four or five weeks he brought me boxes and scores and we’d listen together and talk about it.  After five or six months, with a great feeling of dread because I worried it had potential to end our friendship.  (Thankfully) that didn’t happen, because I loved his work and out of this friendship came his appointment as composer-in-residence with the San Francisco Symphony


“He asked me what I wanted.  Because he always spoke of literature I suggested choral works.  He was greatly inspired by Emily Dickenson, for example.   I then asked him for a big piece—but with no saxophones or weird percussion, so that we could travel with it.  He would bring notes and we played and recorded….”


How wonderful this formula for the Afterwork Masterworks concerts is!  We had gone from a highly stimulating performance and were still tingling from the climatic percussion powered explosion that ends “Harmonielehre”  to what felt like a very intimate conversation with the performers as if we were valued old friends visiting with them in their living room. 


There are three more Afterwork Masterworks concerts remaining in this CSO season.  Another plus of these concerts is that they start early in the evening and even with the add-on discussion you are likely to get home early, in keeping with their being held on a school night.  For information on these and other CSO concert offerings visit the CSO website.



Photos:  Todd Rosenberg Photography

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