Vancouver Symphony concert has European flair

It will feature Nordic tunes, young violin virtuoso from Spain

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If you go

What: Vancouver Symphony concert with Spanish virtuoso Francisco Garcia-Fullana.

When: 3 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Skyview High School Concert Hall, 1300 N.W. 139th St., Vancouver.

Cost: $48 for reserved seats, $33 for general admission, $27 for seniors and $10 for students.

Information: 360-735-7278 or visit http://vancouvers...

The Vancouver Symphony’s first concert of the new year will have a distinctly Northern European flavor, featuring works from Russia and Finland.

Salvador Brotons will lead the orchestra in performances of “Polonaise” from Tchaikovsky’s opera “Eugene Onegin” and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3 (“Polish”). Also on the program is Sibelius’ “Violin Concerto,” which will be played by Spanish virtuoso Francisco Garcia-Fullana.

Only 21 years old, Garcia-Fullana has completed his bachelor’s degree at the Juilliard School in New York and is now in his first year of a master’s program. In recognition of his talent, the Juilliard School has loaned him a violin made by Francesco Goffriller in 1734. It belongs to the school’s rare-instrument collection.

Garcia-Fullana gave his first New York recital in 2007, and in 2008 he played Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto” in Munich under Sir Colin Davis. In 2009 he played the Mendelssohn “Violin Concerto” with the Spanish Radio Television Orchestra in Madrid. He has won a number of prizes and was selected to participate in a Young Artists Program with Pinchas Zukerman.

“This is the first time that I’ve played the Sibelius with an orchestra,” Garcia-Fullana said. “I’ve performed it with piano accompaniment in the past. I’ve been working on it since August in preparation for the concert with the Vancouver Symphony and maestro Brotons.”

According to Garcia-Fullana, the first movement of the Sebelius is the most dramatic.

“In the beginning, you can feel like you are in a forest,” he said. “You are by yourself, and it is cold, snowy, and windy. I’ll hope to convey a story of this music to the audience. It all depends how well I work with the orchestra and the conductor to connect with the audience.”

Garcia-Fullana made his recital debut at age 8 and his orchestral solo debut at 9 with the Balearic Islands Symphony Orchestra under Brotons. In October 2010, he played the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with same ensemble under Brotons as well.

Sibelius’ “Violin Concerto” is his only large-scale work for solo instrument and orchestra. He wrote it in the summer of 1903 and conducted the premiere himself in early 1904. He then made some substantial revisions in 1905, reintroducing the work in Berlin later that year.

The solo part is considered one of the most difficult in the entire repertory. Its many virtuosic passages are welded to the orchestra’s score with very disciplined intentions, because none of the material for the soloist is ostentatious. So the orchestral writing is not a mere backdrop for the soloist. The piece is filled with dark, somber “colors,” and the music has an air of passionate urgency and drama. It was not initially popular, but it is now regarded -- along with the concertos of Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky -- as one of the greatest violin concertos ever written.

Tchaikovsky’s “Third Symphony,” also known as the “Polish,” is not as well-known as his other symphonies, perhaps because it doesn’t have the huge emotional shifts. Written during the summer of 1875, the “Third” is an unashamedly cheerful work. At its center is one of the most romantic themes that Tchaikovsky ever wrote.

This symphony has five movements, which Tchaikovsky arranged in a very pleasing symmetric pattern around the central slow movement. The movements are thematically linked so that the piece seems to progress in a familiar way. Often, a motif is followed immediately by a restatement by other instruments in an echolike fashion. The strings make frequent and effective use of pizzicato (or plucking). Each movement has a sense of a dance rhythm, and each dance brings with it its own nationality. The subtitle “Polish” was added later by a conductor, but does not aptly describe the work as a whole, because it refers only to the final movement, the “Tempo di Polacca.” Other movements were influenced by Scottish dances, German dance, and, of course, Russian dances.

The orchestra will kick off the concert with the ebullient “Polonaise” from Tchaikovsky’s opera “Eugene Onegin.” Inspired by Polish dances, Tchaikovsky’s “Polonaise” sets the opening scene of the opera’s third act, which is dominated by a glittering dance floor at a great house in St. Petersburg. The public immediately fell in love with the “Polonaise” after the opera’s premiere in 1879, and just a year later Liszt made a celebrated piano transcription of it.