In 1923, emotionally shattered by the recent death of his wife, Edward Elgar set off alone across the Atlantic to Brazil, and then on a boat journey up the Amazon, deep into the heart of the jungle. He didn’t tell much of anybody about it, before leaving or after he came back. He was 66 years old.
What was he seeking? We’ll never know for sure. But the madness of the gesture, so out of character for a proper English gentleman, was all of a piece with the music of this strange, irascible, lovable, visionary titan of English music. It seems unbelievable that the composer of the Pomp and Circumstance Marches and other Victorian and Edwardian occasional music is also the composer of this passionate, sensuous, richly complicated First Symphony. It was hailed upon its premiere as the greatest symphony ever written by an Englishman; that judgment is quite possibly still valid more than a hundred years later.
The emotion-wracked, sweepingly romantic Manfred Overture of Schumann opens the program, and in between, to provide some calm between the two emotionally fraught works, is the Apollonian Violin Concerto of Mendelssohn. Violinist Jennifer Frautschi is an extraordinary artist famous for her wide-ranging repertory and her collaborations with some of the most interesting musicians on the scene today. Her collaboration with Benjamin Zander and the BPO is sure to result in a Mendelssohn concerto that is out-of-the-ordinary and memorable.