Violin event: Concertmasters from three major orchestras to perform together in Montreal for the first time

Andrew Wan, Jonathan Crow and Yosuke Kawasaki will perform Alexina Louie’s Triple Concerto for Three Violins and Orchestra, which was specifically composed for the three virtuosos.

According to the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal’s concertmaster Andrew Wan, there are few works that would require three solo violinists. To his knowledge, the only other concerto for 3 violins is a reconstruction of Bach’s Concerto for 3 Harpsichords.

The Triple Concerto was commissioned from Canadian composer Alexina Louie for Canada’s 150th anniversary. From the outset, the composer structured the piece with the three concertmasters in mind: Jonathan Crow (Toronto Symphony Orchestra), Yosuke Kawasaki (National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ottawa), and Andrew Wan (OSM), who said that “it was a great privilege for us to have been involved throughout the creative process.”

Montrealers will also be privileged to see and hear these three great violinists perform the Triple Concerto with the OSM as part of the The Prague of Mozart and Dvořák concert on March 14 and 15 .

The French expression “violon solo” conveys only a limited idea of the role played by this lead performer in the orchestra. The English word “concertmaster” sheds more light on it. Andrew Wan explains it as follows: “If you compare a symphony orchestra to a hockey team, the conductor can be considered to be the coach, and the concertmaster the captain. The concertmaster is the linchpin between the conductor and the musicians, particularly when the orchestra is led by a guest conductor.” When the concertmaster comes on stage, the audience traditionally applauds, and he then leads the orchestra in tuning prior to the concert. He determines the bowings for the string section and often performs an ambassadorial role for the orchestra. (At the OSM, Wan shares the concertmaster role with Richard Roberts.)


Three like-minded virtuosos

Relations between Jonathan Crow, Yosuke Kawasaki and Andrew Wan go well beyond their Triple Concerto collaboration.


Jonathan Crow preceded Andrew Wan as the OSM’s concertmaster. “When I won the post of concertmaster with the OSM, I contacted Jonathan to talk to him about his experiences in a similar role with the orchestra. We’ve become good friends that work together often – with the New Orford Quartet, as well as duo projects.”


Wan’s connection to Yosuke Kawasaki takes a quite different form. “His father, the great violinist Masao Kawasaki, was my teacher at the Juilliard School in New York. Not only that, but Yosuke’s father-in-law was my younger brother’s music teacher!” Andrew and Yasuke had never played with one another until Alexina Louie’s Triple Concerto brought them together with Jonathan, to the great delight of their audiences.


A fiery but enthralling program

“The Triple Concerto,” says Andrew Wan, “demands considerable virtuosity. It is a blend of intense performances and poignant melodies. When we first played it in Toronto and Ottawa, the audiences responded very enthusiastically.”

When musicians perform as soloists in a concert piece, they do not usually play in other parts of the program. Andrew Wan will break this tradition: following the Triple Concerto, he will join his OSM colleagues in a performance of Dvořák’s magnificent Symphony no. 8.

The concert will open with Mozart’s Symphony no. 38, known as the “Prague” because that is where Mozart composed it in 1786 – almost exactly a century before Dvořák conducted the premiere of his Symphony no. 8 there.

Kent Nagano will lead the orchestra for The Prague of Mozart and Dvořák concert at Maison symphonique de Montréal on Wednesday, March 14 and Thursday, March 15, at 8 p.m.