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19 Year Old Violin Virtuoso Returns to Brevard Philharmonic


The soloist who brought the Brevard Philharmonic audience to its feet two years ago, returns to the stage of the Porter Center Sunday, March 29th at 3PM. A rising star in the classical music world, Zeyu Victor Li, at 14 years old, was the youngest violinist ever to be accepted at the Curtis Institute of Music. He is electrifying audiences internationally, not only due to his technical mastery of the instrument, but also because of his magnificent feel for the music. Both will be on display when Li joins the Philharmonic for Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, opus 63.

Prokofiev wrote this piece in 1935 for the French violinist, Robert Soetens. After having lived in the West for 15 years, in 1933 Prokofiev, out of nostalgia for his homeland, returned to Russia. The Second Violin Concerto was his last non-Soviet commission.

At first the- non political Prokofiev embraced the Soviet party line which insisted that if music is going to be for the masses, it should be simplified to become popular. This was a difficult period of adjustment for him, yet it is interesting to observe that some of his greatest works, Lieutenant Kije, Romeo and Juliet, Alexander Nevsky, the Second Violin Concerto and Peter and the Wolf were all written during this period. (Brevard Philharmonic will be performing Peter and the Wolf for all county 5th graders this month as part of its Music in the Schools Program).

The Second Concerto is lyrical and virtuosic with a tense underpinning. Prokofiev draws from traditional folk music for a profoundly Russian sound. The elegant second movement brings in the rhythmic edge for which Prokofiev is known without losing any of the piece’s grace. The third and final movement offers a taste of Spain (where the piece had its debut) and makes a bravura impression with mixed meters and brilliant perpetual motion writing for the solo violin. The ideal showcase for Mr. Li’s virtuosity.

The concert will open with the Philharmonic playing Edward Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme, opus 36, “Enigma.”

As the story goes, on the evening of October 21, 1898, after an especially tiring day teaching the violin, Edward Elgar, a largely self-taught British composer, sat down at the piano to unwind. His wife Alice was taken in by the melody. Elgar responded by suggesting how the tune might be played by certain of their friends…and he proceeded to demonstrate. Out of that spontaneous moment Enigma Variations was born. The work that secured Elgar’s reputation as a composer.

The structure is one melody, played with 14 different interpretations, each interpretation representing the mood or style of one of his friends. His wife is identified by a whistle….the whistle Elgar used to let her know he was home. One friend who was older, is represented by bassoons. Another friend who played chamber music with Elgar is shown by his finger warm up exercises on the piano. A violin student can be identified by her practice piece. Finally there is said to be a hidden melody buried in the piece. The Enigma remains one of the most popular works in the classical repertoire.

Zeyu Victor Li has won awards at the Montreal International Musical Competition, the Shanghai Spring International Music Festival and was a finalist in the 2012 Yehudi Menuhin Young Violinists International Competition.

The brilliant violinist, Pinchas Zukerman calls him, “ A genius. His future is a bright one.”

Zeyu Victor Li, A Prodigy Returns, is sponsored by Kristine and John Candler.

The Brevard Philharmonic is a non-profit organization comprised of local and regional musicians, presenting six concerts annually at Brevard College’s Porter Center for the Performing Arts, under the distinguished baton of Donald Portnoy, its artistic director and conductor. Its mission is to foster in the community and in our schools an appreciation for classical music and the performing arts.

Tickets are on sale now for A Prodigy Returns.

To purchase, visit, call (828)884-4221, or stop by the new downtown Brevard office at 66 South French Broad Street (on the corner of Broad and Jordan) Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 11am and 1pm.

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