Violinist Leila Josefowicz’s intimate relationship to composer John Adams’ sensibilities and music has been evident for 15 years. In her early 20s, Josefowicz played Adams’ Violin Concerto, a piece that augmented the composer’s own career and also helped solidly the violinist’s stamp on contemporary renderings. Josefowicz now devotes nearly all her efforts to modern compositions.
Chief among those works is Adams’ new composition, Scheherazade.2, which he terms a “dramatic symphony” for orchestra and solo violin. The work, paired with Respighi, was played last week––April 14, 15, and 16––at Walt Disney Concert Hall. John Adams conducted.
Adams had grown intrigued with the Arabian Nights story, especially the “brutality toward women that lies at the base of many of these tales,” he writes. In composing the new work, his muse contemplated current and pervasive brutality toward women:
“The ‘woman in the blue bra’ in Tahrir Square, dragged through the streets, severely beaten, humiliated, and physically exposed by enraged, violent men. Or the young Iranian student, Neda Agha-Soltan, who was shot to death while attending a peaceful protest in Teheran. Or women routinely attacked and even executed by religious fanatics in any number of countries — India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, wherever.”
Adams’ 48-minute work, played impeccably by Josefowicz, unfolds in a “set of provocative images” in which the violinist becomes Scheherazade.
- The introduction to Scheherazade as a stunning woman possessed of grit and power.
- The pursuit of Scheherazade by “true believers,” which Adams wryly links to American politics at some performances.
- A love scene, ”which is both violent and tender.”
- The court trial by religious zealots who rage, yet Scheherazade responds calmly.
- The final “escape, flight and sanctuary.”
Both Adams’ and Josefowicz’s storytelling was masterful, drawing out nuances, and painting pictures that were easily realized by simply shutting one’s eyes.
Los Angeles Times’ reviewer Mark Swed has termed Josefowicz the “Wonder Woman of violinists” who is both “temperamentally and theatrically transformative.” Josefowicz first picked up her instrument at age 3, employing the Suzuki method, and studied with Colburn School teacher Robert Lipsett, among others. Lipsett holds the Jascha Heifetz Distinguished Violin Chair at the Colburn School of Performing Arts.
Josefowicz made her Carnegie Hall debut at age 16 playing the Tchaikovsky Concerto, and soon signed with Philips Classics. Other modern works she has favored include those by composers Thomas Ades and Oliver Knussen.
• Los Angeles Times’ feature of Josefowicz at age 10.
• Los Angeles Philharmonic’s upcoming concerts include Saint-Saens & Mendelssohn, and Murray Perahia in recital (Brahms and Beethoven).