In the late 18th century, professional musicians typically were composers as well as performers, generally writing music for themselves to play.
Even when they performed their own virtuoso works for soloist and orchestra, composers such as Mozart and Beethoven typically improvised solo cadenzas on the spot to show off their skills as both performer and composer.
Today, concerto soloists almost always play a previously composed solo cadenza. Violinist Eric Tanner, however, will play his own cadenzas with the Grand Rapids Symphony when he performs two Rondos by Mozart.
“This was the tradition during the Classical era, so I thought it was fitting to try my hand at it too,” said Tanner, who is Principal Second Violinist of the Grand Rapids Symphony.
The 2017-18 Crowe Horwath Great Eras series continues with The Classical Concert: Beethoven, Haydn & Mozart at 8 p.m. on Friday, February 16, in St. Cecilia Music Center, 24 Ransom Ave. NW.
Highlights of the evening concert will be given at 10 a.m. that morning for The Classical Coffee Concert, part of the Porter Hills Coffee Classics series, a one-hour program held without intermission. Doors open at 9 a.m. for complementary coffee and pastry.
Tickets start at $26 for the Great Eras series and $16 for Coffee Classics. Call the Grand Rapids Symphony ticket office at (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 or go online to GRSymphony.org
Music Director Marcelo Lehninger will lead the Grand Rapids Symphony in music by the three Viennese masters for the third concert in the four-concert series held in Royce Auditorium.
The program includes Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 and Haydn’s Symphony No. 88, the latter in honor of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s 88th season in 2017-18.
Tanner steps in front of the orchestra as soloist in Two Rondos for Violin and Orchestra, one in B-flat Major and one in C Major, both by Mozart.
Tanner, who joined the Grand Rapids Symphony in 1996 and was appointed Principal Second Violin in 1999, is making his eighth solo appearance with the orchestra. His previous solo appearances include performing the Brahms’ Double Concerto together with his brother, cellist Mark Tanner, in 2005, and performing as soloist in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in 2007.
Eric Tanner has held positions in the Florida Philharmonic, New Orleans Symphony, Springfield Symphony and American Sinfonietta. He served as Concertmaster of the North Miami Beach Symphony where he performed the Bruch Violin Concerto with the orchestra.
Along with violinist Joshua Bell, Tanner was a finalist in 1982 in the first annual SEVENTEEN Magazine and General Motors Concerto Competition, in addition to other competitions and awards.
Along with serving as second violinist with the Grand Rapids Symphony’s DeVos String Quartet, Tanner is first violinist of the Perugino String Quartet, which was founded at Grand Valley State University, where he also taught violin from 1997 to 2011. With the Perugino Quartet, Tanner has performed in New York City’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts at the invitation of the Juilliard Quartet.
No one is certain why Mozart wrote either of these two Rondos, which is a musical form with a principal musical theme that alternates with a series of contrasting themes.
It’s likely Mozart wrote them for his friend and colleague, the Italian violinist Antonio Brunetti, who was leader of the court orchestra at Salzburg, where Mozart began his adult career as a musician.
The Rondo in B-flat dates from about 1776 followed by the Rondo in C, which was composed in April 1781, just before Mozart left Salzburg to become a freelance musician in Vienna.
“It’s very probable the Rondo in C was written for Brunetti for a special concert at the palace to show visiting dignitaries from Vienna that Salzburg wasn't just a distant hick town,” Tanner said with a smile.
Tanner, who had never performed these pieces until recently decided to tackle the challenge of writing his own cadenzas for both.
"I wrote them before listening to any recordings of other cadenzas, of which there are many," he said. "I'm happy to say that, except for one small harmony adjustment, I didn't make any changes to what I'd written after listening to the others."
"I hope the audience will enjoy something fresh, and I'll be interested to hear what people think afterwards," he added.