By Lawrence Budmen

For over a quarter century Sunday Afternoons of Music has brought stellar artists to South Florida in intimate recitals of the most exalted variety. Such blazing piano virtuosos as Nelson Freire, Garrick Olsson, Andre Michel Schub and Richard Goode have graced the series. Sopranos Benita Valente and Dawn Upshaw made their only Miami appearances at SAM. String players have been a staple of the house. 

The legendary violinist Aaron Rosand returns to South Florida to open the 27th season of SAM on September 16 at 4:00 P.M. at the Gusman Concert Hall of the University of Miamiís Frost School of Music. Pianist Robert Koenig, a stellar chamber music player, will be Rosandís collaborator.

In an increasingly globalized musical world, a Rosand performance is a true event. One of the last exponents of the Golden Age of Romantic Violin Virtuosos, Rosand upholds a unique tradition. After six decades on the worldís concert stages, this violinistís technique remains pristine; his sound beautiful and distinctive. 

Rosand studied with Leon Sametini (a pupil of the great Belgian violinist Eugene Ysaye) and Efrem Zimbalist Sr. (whose mentor was Leopold Auer, the dedicatee of Tchaikovskyís Violin Concerto). Indeed Zimbalist and Auer founded Philadelphiaís renowned Curtis Institute of Music where Rosand now teaches, imparting his special violinistic heritage to a new generation. 

Rosandís absolute mastery of the instrument is awesome. Not since the great Russian virtuoso Misha Elman has a violinist exhibited such tonal allure, suavely elegant rubato, and supple magic of phrase. Rosand possesses a searching musical intellect that revitalizes familiar music and brings the excitement of discovery to rarely heard scores. 

While many players endlessly repeat a limited repertoire, Rosand has long explored an adventurous musical feast. Although Samuel Barberís lyrically expansive Violin Concerto has become standard concert fare, Rosand was one of the first major artists to essay this work (with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic no less). He has resurrected many obscure 19th century violin showpieces. One of the few players since Jascha Heifetz to champion Sir William Waltonís rapturous Violin Concerto, Rosand recorded the score in Miami for Harmonia Mundi with James Judd conducting the Florida Philharmonic.

A Rosand performance leaves a darkly burnished aural rumination strongly etched in the mindís ear. Whether leaping through the dizzying pyrotechnical hurdles of Aram Khachaturianís Violin Concerto or weaving the classical spell of Beethovenís Kreutzer Sonata, Rosandís artistic legacy is one of a kind. The honeyed tonal sheen of his Mendelssohn or Tchaikovsky defines aristocratic string playing par excellence. Few musicians have made Ernest Chaussonís Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet soar with such impetuous urgency. Erich Wolfgang Korngoldís Violin Concerto suffers in mundane performances from an excess of Hollywood style romantic bathos. In Rosandís masterful hands, it became a gleaming paean to the richly communicative oeuvre of Mahler and Strauss. His recordings of the concertos and solo works of Bruch and Saint-Saens are unsurpassed for idiomatic subtlety, lithe ťlan and incendiary passion. 

Rosandís program for his September 16 musicale is typically varied and artistically stimulating. Long a great interpreter of the music of Bach and Beethoven, Rosand will devote the first half of his concert to the music of the third ďBĒ Ė Johannes Brahms. The Leipzig masterís vigorous Scherzo in C minor serves as a prelude to the opulent romantic passion of the Sonata No.2 in A minor. Rosandís dark, richly burnished tone and artistic integrity should be a perfect match for these late 19th century treasures. Brahms of a lighter, Gypsy inflected variety follows: the Hungarian Dances Nos. 2 in D minor and 4 in B minor in transcriptions by Joseph Joachim, one of the worldís first bravura violinists. 

A series of wonderful short pieces highlights the concertís post intermission offerings. The languid Gallic romanticism of Ernest Chaussonís glorious Poeme is a Rosand staple. His white heated intensity and singing tone are sure to prove combustible in this melodramatic French vignette. Rosand has recorded the complete works of Spanish violinist-composer Pablo de Sarasate. That masterís Malaguena should prove beguiling. The Sarasate mix of exotic color and elegant string writing is irresistible. Jascha Heifetz popularized Arthur Benjaminís Jamaican Rumba. Rosand offers William Primroseís virtuosic transcription. Alexander Glazunov was one of Russiaís most prolific composers and musical pedagogues. The teacher of Shostakovich and Prokofiev, Glazunov was a formidable creative artist. (Rosand has often performed his fiery Violin Concerto.) Rosand will offer Glazunovís Meditation, a melancholy romance from the Russian heartland. Jeno Hubay was one of the 19th centuryís violin superstars. To conclude his program, Rosand will offer Hubayís Heure Kati, a tour de force of fiddle fireworks. 

Rosandís concert promises to be a memorable opening to an outstanding season for the Sunday Afternoons of Music series. December 9 brings Israeli born cellist Yehuda Hanani, long a South Florida favorite for his Close Encounters with Music series. Hanani will make a long anticipated return in a program that includes Cesar Franckís Cello Sonata, a rarely heard transcription of the composerís sonata for violin. Future programs will feature Canadian tenor star Ben Heppner, the illustrious Julliard String Quartet (in their first Miami appearance in over two decades), innovative cellist Matt Haimovitz, clarinetist supreme Richard Stoltzman, rising Israeli keyboard star Alon Goldstein and bravura violinist Vadim Gluzman (back by popular demand). With such a cornucopia of talent from around the globe, this should be a season to remember!

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