UMW Philharmonic’s 48th season will soon come to a close.
It’s been a year that’s brought the likes of the multitalented Paul Anka, travel icon Rick Steves and “Star Trek” star LeVar Burton to the ’Burg.
And for its final show of the season, the red carpet is being rolled out for yet another musical sensation. World-renowned violinist Nadja Salerno–Sonnenberg joins the UMW Philharmonic on Friday evening for a performance of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.”
“We’ve been wanting to do some baroque music for quite some time and let our audiences experience a smaller group,” said Kevin Bartram, music director and conductor of the UMW Philharmonic. “We also have been wanting to do ‘Four Seasons’ for quite some time and heard that Nadja was focusing on orchestras like ours these days. It was a perfect fit.”
In the land of violin, Salerno–Sonnenberg is indisputable royalty. Born in Rome, she moved to the U.S. when she was 8 years old. In 1981, she became the youngest ever to win the Walter W. Naumburg International Violin Competition. She’s currently the director of the Loyola Chamber Orchestra in New Orleans and previously was music director of San Francisco’s New Century Chamber Orchestra, among several prized posts.
“If there are students involved, it’s a priority for me,” said Salerno–Sonnenberg, who will lead a violin master class at UMW today. “My passion now is teaching. If I’m going to be working with students, influencing them, bringing them something new, then that’s exactly where I want to be.”
On par with her knowledge of the orchestral realm is the energy she brings to the stage and to working with students.
“With Nadja, she is such an impassioned performer and she wears her heart on her sleeve,” added Bartram. “It will be an absolute treat to have her lead us and for another icon to perform here in Fredericksburg.”
Friday’s performance marks the very first time that the UMW Philharmonic has performed “The Four Seasons.” Widely regarded as one of the most important pieces in music history, Salerno–Sonnenberg will lead a smaller orchestra—comprised of 35 musicians—in true baroque style. There will not be a formal conductor, and members of the orchestra will have to trust and rely on each other.
“I’m thrilled to play ‘The Four Seasons’ again,” she said. “Any piece is a new piece ... doing it with these students, will be a brand-new experience for me and hopefully for them as well.”
“This is very technically challenging and emotional,” added Bartram on “The Four Seasons.” “For example, the strings will be tone-painting. The composers wrote poems for each of the parts of ‘The Four Seasons.’ You’ll hear a dog barking, murmuring streams, birds chirping and more.”
Where Salerno–Sonnenberg will lead the first half of the performance, the second half of the evening will feature UMW’s full orchestra—comprised of 80-plus members—and some musical treats. In addition to a performance of Ottorino Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome,” the world premiere of Samuel Bradshaw’s “Abbreviated Language” will take place.
Bradshaw is a student and composer at UMW and crafted the piece for the philharmonic’s wind and percussion section.
“[Bradshaw] has been such a standout composer,” said Bartram. “His composition teacher, Michael Bratt, informed me of how gifted he was, so we met with him last spring and talked about doing a piece this April. And, here we are.”
When the curtains inevitably close on Friday’s performance, don’t worry, there will be more tunes coming soon. According to Bartram, some details surrounding the 49th season will be disclosed in June.
“We are planning another big-name celebrity,” he said. “It’s hard to believe next year is [season] No. 49. We are working our way up to year 50 and will be planning our 50th season before we know it.”