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Thursday, February 26, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 2.0° F  Fair
The Daily
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Why the Madison Symphony Orchestra keeps bringing back violinist Henning Kraggerud
Third time's the charm
Kraggerud is so mesmerizing that the orchestra has kept inviting him back.
Kraggerud is so mesmerizing that the orchestra has kept inviting him back.
Credit:Robert Romik

"Champagne and Vodka," the title of the Madison Symphony Orchestra's upcoming weekend of concerts, may be too light for hearty works by two classical heavyweights. It's not entirely off target, though. The program will offer many musical flavors, including Mozart's ambrosia-like melodies.

Each performance will start with Mozart's overture to Der Schauspieldirektor ("The Impresario"), a comic one-act singspiel. Though it's not as well known as his overture to Le nozze di Figaro, it's just as effervescent.

Then guest soloist Henning Kraggerud will raise a second toast to Mozart by performing his sparkling and melodic Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major. This will be the Norwegian violinist's third appearance with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, his previous performances in 2009 and 2011.

According to conductor John DeMain, Kraggerud is so mesmerizing that the orchestra has kept inviting him back. He says the players have been "completely taken" with Kraggerud because he's both a first-class performer and a topnotch collaborator.

"He thinks in great detail about what we're doing as well as what he's doing," DeMain explains. "Some soloists come in, and here's their interpretation. We accompany them and learn, and that's fine. But he comes in with his own parts and will have thought about every note that every single person plays."

With three contrasting movements and an elegant, graceful style, the concerto will lend itself well to Kraggerud's talents, which include composing his own cadenzas.

For the finale, Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 will stir the audience with measured amounts of ice and fire. DeMain says this symphony is complex from a political and social standpoint.

"The second movement is thought to be a satire of Stalin, and some of the movements have Shostakovich's own encryption," he says, explaining that there are "four notes that represent his name and also four notes that [presumably] represent the name of his lover."

This is an emotionally rewarding work as well.

"It's an exhilarating, virtuosic piece for the audience and a favorite among musicians just because it's so entertaining to listen to," DeMain says. "This will be the second time in my tenure that we've done this piece, and we just had such a great time playing it in the past."

But DeMain's fond memories aren't the only reason he's bringing this grand symphony back to the stage. He wants Madison to experience it in a magnificent venue, Overture Hall.

"We haven't played it in our newly renovated hall, which has great sonority, great volume and a wonderful sound that virtually permeates the entire space," he says.

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