The Concertmaster’s Cadenza



Concertmaster Noah Geller
Editor’s Note: Kansas City Symphony Concertmaster Noah Geller makes his Kansas City solo debut on Jan. 10-12, 2014, performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto. The program also features Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and John Corigliano’s
Fantasia on an Ostinato.

In music, the Italian term “cadenza” refers to the often showy or virtuosic solo display at the end of a movement. Some soloists choose to improvise cadenzas. Others perform ornamental passages composed by other performers, or sometimes the composer even provides cadenza suggestions. Symphony Concertmaster Noah Geller recently shared some of his thoughts on the subject and his upcoming solo appearance.

In the case of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, the soloist has a bevy of options. More than a dozen cadenzas have been written for the work. During concerts Jan. 10-12, Concertmaster Geller will make his solo debut with the Symphony, performing the treasured piece. He describes the opportunity as “a dream come true, especially playing alongside a great orchestra like Kansas City.”

Compared to other concertos, Geller acknowledges there are an extraordinary number of cadenzas available for this Beethoven work. Although it’s become increasingly popular for soloists to write their own cadenzas or even improvise on the spot, Geller says he’s not much of a composer. Instead, he’s happy to play others’ great music and put his own stamp on it. Geller is choosing to perform the Fritz Kreisler cadenzas on the first and third movements.

“[These] cadenzas allow a lot of Fritz Kreisler’s personality to shine through,” he explains. “Some argue they don’t mesh perfectly with Beethoven’s style, harmonically. While I don’t necessarily disagree, I still really love the way they come off in terms of virtuosity and their expressivity.”

Geller also noted that Beethoven wrote an alternative version of the full concerto for piano with cadenzas. Some violinists, such as Christian Tetzlaff and Gidon Kremer, transcribed those piano cadenzas. Although Geller grew up listening to Kremer’s version, he disliked that particular interpretation of the Beethoven cadenza so much he would fast forward through it.

“But Tetzlaff did a beautiful transcription,” he says. “So if you want to hear Beethoven’s cadenza, it’s worth picking up that recording.”

Kansas City audiences will be treated to Geller’s fresh interpretation of the often-played Kreisler cadenzas.

“In the climax of the first movement cadenza, [Kreisler] takes the first and second themes and puts them on top of each other and the violin plays both lines at the same time,” Geller says. “That would be a pretty cool thing to listen for.”

To purchase tickets, call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or select your seat online here. To hear a sneak peak of Geller’s performance, watch a video on the Symphony’s YouTube channel here.


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