The hope was to repair a friendship.
Joseph Joachim was among the most celebrated violinists of his era and a close friend of Johannes Brahms. But the two were estranged in 1880, when Joachim began divorce proceedings against his wife, the soprano Amalie Weiss. Brahms took Weiss’ side, defending her against charges of infidelity and effectively ending his friendship with Joachim.
Yet the violinist continued to perform Brahms’ works and, in 1887, the composer attempted rapprochement. The result was the “Double Concerto in A for Violin and Cello, Op. 102.” Written for Joachim and cellist Robert Hausman, it is today considered a masterpiece of the form.
At 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9, St. Louis Symphony cellist Bjorn Ranheim and violinst Shawn Weil will join the Washington University Symphony Orchestra for a performance of the “Double Concerto” in the E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall.
The free concert, presented as part of the symphony’s Community Partnership Program, also will feature music of Ludwig van Beethoven and Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
The E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall is in WUSTL’s 560 Music Center, located at 560 Trinity Ave. in University City.
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Gifts of knowledge, gifts of art
Conducted by Steven Jarvi, the program will open with Beethoven’s Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus (1801). The composer’s first venture into ballet — itself a newly independent artform, still emerging from opera’s shadow — the piece is an epic allegory based on the Greek myth of the rebellious Titan who, pitying humanity’s ignorance, bequeaths the gifts of knowledge and art.
Next will be five excerpts from The Nutcracker Suite (1892), which Tchaikovsky wrote to accompany a ballet based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s fairytale The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Now a holiday staple, the story centers on Clara, a young girl who discovers that a favorite Christmas present is, in fact, a bewitched prince. Selections will include the opening “Overture Miniature” and “Marche,” followed by the famous “Danse Russe Trepak, Danse Arabe” and “Valse des Fleurs” (“Waltz of the Flowers”).
Concluding the concert will be Brahms’ “Double Concerto,” with Ranheim and Weil as soloists. The performance is the culmination of a special mentoring project, Symphony in Your College, which paired WUSTL students with symphony musicians.
Joachim, it should be noted, accepted Brahms’ gesture. He debuted the Double Concerto in the fall of 1887.
The following year, Brahm’s gave his old friend the first copy of the published score. “To him for whom it was written,” read the inscription.
St. Louis Symphony Community Partnership program
Thanks to support from foundations, corporate sponsors and individuals, STL Symphony Community Partnerships is able to present many free concerts and in-school education programs each year throughout the greater St. Louis area. For more information about upcoming events, please visit the Community and Education section of the St. Louis Symphony website.