To mark the centenary of Leonard Bernstein, Dutch violin virtuoso and avid chamber musician Liza Ferschtman will be touring internationally with a performance of Bernstein’s Serenade after Plato’s ‘Symposium’.
From January through to June 2018, Ferschtman will be giving ten performances of Bernstein’s five-movement concerto. In January and February 2018, she will be in Germany and the Netherlands with the Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra, followed by performances in America with the Omaha Symphony. Ferschtman will then travel to Brussels and London in May with the Brussels Philharmonic. It won’t be the first time that she has presented the work; Ferschtman has already played the Serenade in ten cities, including New York and Budapest. It’s a work that the violinist has a special fondness for, having been asked at the last minute to perform the piece with the Budapest Festival Orchestra under Iván Fischer five years ago.
Speaking to BBC Music Magazine, Ferschtman says, ‘I don’t know any other piece in the repertoire quite like it. It really stole my heart…. The Serenade has its own unique voice, great thematic writing, incredible instrumentation.’
Bernstein’s composition was inspired in part by the dialogue by Plato, the text that gives the piece its name. Plato’s text presents speeches in praise of the God of Love and Desire, Eros; notable figures of the day are attending a banquet, and provide seven different perspectives on love and spirituality.
As the Artistic Director of the Delft Chamber Music Festival in the Netherlands, this sense of conversation, energy and personality is particularly appealing to Ferschtman. She was similarly drawn to Bernstein’s piece because of its ingenious combination of different musical idioms. Ferschtman speaks of the ‘swing’ of the Serenade, an atmosphere that doubtless references the alcohol-drenched context of the banquet Plato describes. Ferschtman notes how Bernstein ‘really manages to combine these two worlds [classical and popular] without really any problem’.
But Bernstein is not the only composer who combined different styles to great effect, according to Ferschtman. Placed alongside the Serenade will be Korngold’s Violin Concerto, as Korngold is a composer who, in the eyes of the violinist, has numerous parallels with Bernstein; ‘the more I looked at them together, the more I realised that they have quite a similar state’, she notes. ‘Both are able to have this serious level of composing a piece, and [are] also equally able to use elements of popular culture…in a very personal way’.
One of many projects pursued by individual musicians to celebrate the centenary of Leonard Bernstein next year, Ferschtman is eager to draw particular attention to this somewhat neglected work: ‘the music is just so original and so special’.
As well as touring the two works worldwide, Ferschtman will be releasing a disc with the Arnhem Philharmonic and Christian Vásquez on Challenge Classics in January 2018, her tenth CD for the label.
To find out more about Ferschtman’s visit to London, click here.
Read more about Bernstein's centenary in the January issue of BBC Music Magazine.