Famed for dynamic and virtuosic performances of the classical repertoire without a conductor, French violinist David Grimal and his orchestra Les Dissonances present a made-in-the-USA concert program at the Dijon Opera featuring Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (both composed after his move to the United States) as well as Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.
In 1940 Bartók fled Austria-Hungary to escape the growing menace of Nazism, settling in the United States for what would be his life’s final chapter. While hospitalized for a series of medical examinations in 1943, Boston Symphony Orchestra Conductor Serge Koussevitzky came to him to commission a work in memory of his recently deceased wife. Bartók accepted, producing what would become his most beloved work, the Concerto for Orchestra, which premiered on December 1, 1944 to universal acclaim, and with Koussevitzky himself calling it the “best orchestra piece of the last 25 years.” The Concerto would also be one of the last works Bartók ever completed: the Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (commissioned by the Scottish violist William Primrose) existed only as sketches at the time of the composer’s death from leukemia in September 1945. It would be completed by his close friend Tibor Serly in 1949 and premiered that same year by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra with Antal Doráti conducting and Primrose as soloist. Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story bring the evening to its close: selecting themes from his most celebrated Broadway musical, Bernstein created the symphonic arrangement in 1957.
The Historic Stravinsky Memorial Concert, April 1972