Friday, January 25, 2019 | Ferguson Center for the Arts, Newport News | 8PM

Saturday, January 26, 2019 | Chrysler Hall, Norfolk | 8PM

Sunday, January 27, 2019 | Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia Beach | 2:30PM

Composed during a health retreat in the Bohemian spa town of Teplice, in today’s Czech Republic, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 is one the composer considered to be among his best works. It gained instant popularity for its second movement, Allegretto, which was encored at the premiere in which Beethoven conducted. To open our program, the VSO is joined by soloist Sirena Huang for Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, the largest orchestral work by the composer.

Thomas Wilkins , conductor Sirena Huang , violin

Rossini: Overture to La Gazza Ladra Mendelssohn : Violin Concerto Beethoven : Symphony No. 7

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Thomas Wilkins, conductor

Norfolk, VA native Thomas Wilkins is music director of the Omaha Symphony, a position he has held since 2005. He will become the symphony's longest-serving music director with the recent extension of his contract through the symphony's 2020-2021 centennial season, whereupon he will become Music Director Emeritus.

Thomas Wilkins is also principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and holds the Germeshausen Family and Youth Concert Conductor chair with the Boston Symphony.  Past positions have included resident conductor of the Detroit Symphony and Florida Orchestra (Tampa Bay), and associate conductor of the Richmond (VA) Symphony. He also has served on the music faculties of North Park University (Chicago), the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

Devoted to promoting a life-long enthusiasm for music, Thomas Wilkins brings energy and commitment to audiences of all ages. He is hailed as a master at communicating and connecting with audiences.  Following his highly successful first season with the Boston Symphony, the Boston Globe named him among the “Best People and Ideas of 2011.”  In 2014, Wilkins received the prestigious “Outstanding Artist” award at the Nebraska Governor’s Arts Awards, for his significant contribution to music in the state.

During his conducting career, he has led orchestras throughout the United States, including the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra—both of which he will return to conduct in the 2016/2017 season.  Additionally, he has conducted the New York Philharmonic, the Atlanta Symphony, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Baltimore Symphony, the San Diego Symphony, the Utah Symphony, at the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago, and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C., to name a few.

His commitment to community has been demonstrated by his participation on several boards of directors, including the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, the Charles Drew Health Center (Omaha), the Center Against Spouse Abuse in Tampa Bay, and the Museum of Fine Arts as well as the Academy Preparatory Center, both in St. Petersburg, FL.  Currently he serves as chairman of the board for the Raymond James Charitable Endowment Fund and as national ambassador for the non-profit World Pediatric Project headquartered in Richmond, VA, which provides children throughout Central America and the Caribbean with critical surgical and diagnostic care.

Thomas Wilkins is a graduate of the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.  He resides with his wife, Sheri-Lee, in Omaha. They are the proud parents of twin daughters, Erica and Nicole.

Sirena Huang, violin

Praised by The Baltimore Sun for her “impeccable technique…deeply expressive phrasing…and poetic weight," Sirena Huang is one of her generation’s most celebrated violinists. She brings not only technical brilliance and powerful artistry to the stage, but also a profound sense of connection to her audience.

Sirena has been the recipient of numerous accolades and awards. Most recently, in February of 2017, Sirena was awarded First Prize at the Elmar Oliveira International Violin Competition and in March, she was awarded the winner of the New York Concert Artist. In 2009, she won First Prize Gold Medalist of the 6th International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians. She won First Prize and the Audience Award at the Cooper International Competition in 2011. That same year, she was also named the first Artist-in-Residence of Hartford Symphony Orchestra. In 2013, she was awarded the Hannloser Prize for Violin at the Verbier Music Festival in Switzerland. She is also a top prize winner at Singapore International Violin Competition as well as the Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition.

Sirena made her solo debut with the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra in 2004 at the age of nine, and has performed in seventeen countries across three continents. She has been featured as a soloist with more than fifty prestigious ensembles, including the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Russian Symphony Orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and the Staatskapelle Weimar in Germany. She has appeared as a guest artist at the Verbier Music Festival, Marlboro Music Festival, Ravinia Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Eastern Music Festival, Sarasota Arts Series, Albuquerque Chamber Music Festival, “The Great Music for a Great City” series in New York City, and many others.

Motivated by a deep wish to inspire peace and harmony with her music, Sirena has performed before world leaders, thinkers and humanitarians, including President Obama and Elie Wiesel. At age eleven, she gave a TED talk that garnered more than 2.5 million views. In 2006, she received the honor of playing for His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan and thirty Nobel Prize Laureates at the World Peace Conference held in Petra. In 2007, under the invitation of former Czech Republic President Havel, she played in the Opening Ceremony of the “Forum 2000 World Conference” in Prague. In 2008, she was invited to perform during the ceremony in which the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity presented its Humanitarian Award to President Sarkozy of France.

In addition to her TED Talk in 2006, Huang has been featured on numerous radio and television broadcasts, including WQXR’s McGraw-Hill Young Artists Showcase and NPR’s “From the Top" as well as several interviews with WNPR, CNBC, WTNH, WTIC, WB20 and Beethoven Radio.

Photo credit: © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2017

Felix Mendelssohn was born February 3, 1809, Hamburg, Germany. Felix was born of Jewish parents, Abraham and Lea Salomon Mendelssohn, from whom he took his first piano lessons. In 1811, during the French occupation of Hamburg, the family had moved to Berlin, where Mendelssohn studied the piano with Ludwig Berger and composition with Carl Friedrich Zelter, who, as a composer and teacher, exerted an enormous influence on his development. Other teachers gave the Mendelssohn children lessons in literature and landscape painting, with the result that at an early age Mendelssohn’s mind was widely cultivated. He traveled with his sister to Paris, where he took further piano lessons and where he appears to have become acquainted with the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

In 1821 Mendelssohn was taken to Weimar to meet J.W. von Goethe, for whom he played works of J.S. Bach and Mozart and to whom he dedicated his Piano Quartet No. 3. in B Minor (1825). A remarkable friendship developed between the aging poet and the 12-year-old musician. In Paris in 1825 Luigi Cherubini discerned Mendelssohn’s outstanding gifts. The next year he reached his full stature as a composer with the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The atmospheric effects and the fresh lyrical melodies in this work revealed the mind of an original composer, while the animated orchestration looked forward to the orchestral manner of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. In his music Mendelssohn largely observed Classical models and practices while initiating key aspects of Romanticism—the artistic movement that exalted feeling and the imagination above rigid forms and traditions.

Mendelssohn was an extremely precocious musical composer. He wrote numerous compositions during his boyhood, among them 5 operas, 11 symphonies for string orchestra, concerti, sonatas, and fugues. His Wedding March is heard as brides walk down the aisle all over the world. Among his most famous works are Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1826), Italian Symphony (1833), a violin concerto (1844), two piano concerti (1831, 1837), the oratorio Elijah (1846), and several pieces of chamber music. He was a grandson of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn.

Mendelssohn died November 4, 1847, Leipzig, Germany, a German composer, pianist, musical conductor, and teacher, one of the most-celebrated figures of the early Romantic period.

Ludwig van Beethoven was born December 1770, as the eldest surviving child of Johann and Maria Magdalena van Beethoven. Both his father and grandfather were singers, and his brother had success with the piano. Having observed in his eldest son the signs of a child talent, Johann tried to make Ludwig a child prodigy like his brother, but did not succeed. It was not until his adolescence that Beethoven began to attract mild attention.

Other than his father, Ludwig Van Beethoven has several other teachers that included Gilles Van Den Eeden who worked at the court as an organist, Tobias Friedrich Pfeiffer who was a good friend to the family and taught Ludwig all about the keyboard, and Franz Rovantini who was a relative that instructed Ludwig on how to play the violin and the viola. All these teachers did well in giving his good ground to start his musical journey as a young talented kid. Other than them, he also had training by some of the best musicians in that time. He was a ground-breaker, in all senses. He oversaw the transition of music from the Classical style, full of poise and balance, to the Romantic style, characterised by emotion and impact.

Widely regarded as the greatest composer who ever lived, Ludwig van Beethoven dominates a period of musical history as no one else before or since. Rooted in the Classical traditions of Joseph Haydn and Mozart, his art reaches out to encompass the new spirit of humanism and incipient nationalism.

Beethoven died March 26, 1827 in Austria. This German composer, was the predominant musical figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras who changed music forever. He reinvented the symphony, reshaped string quartets, and redefined piano sonatas.

VSO Performances
The Virginia Symphony will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in the Classics season during a performance of the same name, and Leonore Overture No. 3 and Symphony No. 8 in the Williamsburg and Regent University Classics season during Beethoven Symphony No. 8.