Violinists Stefan Jackiw and Augustin Hadelich up for technical challenges at Aspen Music Festival | AspenTimes.com

Violinists Stefan Jackiw and Augustin Hadelich up for technical challenges at Aspen Music Festival

Two of the world's most acclaimed violinists are aiming to scale to musical heights in upcoming Aspen Music Festival concerts, playing some of the most technically challenging pieces written for the instrument.

On Sunday, Stefan Jackiw will join the Aspen Festival Orchestra to perform Erlich Wolfgang Korngold's Violin Concert in D Major. And on July 18, Augustin Hadelich will give a recital including György Ligeti's violin concerto with a formidable new cadenza by British composer Thomas Adès.

These most fiercely demanding, virtuoso works are more than show-off pieces for two of the world's greatest violinists, said Aspen Music Festival vice president Asadour Santourian.

"They may be difficult, challenging for the player, but they're dazzling for the listener," he said.

Korngold wrote his violin concerto in 1945 for Jascha Heifitz, considered by many the instrument's greatest master in history. After reviewing a draft of Korngold's concerto, Heifitz famously challenged the composer to make it yet more technically challenging. Heifitz's contemporaries who wrote pieces for him — like Korngold and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco — often attempted to write near-impossible scores in attempts to stump Heifitz, noted Santourian.

"Those who dared write for him, they had to pour on the challenge and he loved it," Santourian said. "And he went at it with knife and fork and he learned those pieces, advocated for them and recorded them."

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The virtuosos in the generations to follow, like the 33-year-old American Jackiw, have helped make the piece one of Korngold's most popular by keeping it alive in performance.

Korngold's lush and lyrical violin concerto incorporated themes from his movie scores — Korngold wrote many and won two Oscars — and a dauntingly large orchestra against which the soloist must stand out.

"It gives any violinist something to think about the night before a performance," Santourian said.

Hadelich, for his July 18 solo recital, aimed to craft an evening for Aspen highlighting contemporary music and presenting mostly living composers.

"The idea is that he is demonstrating 20th century virtuosity in the music," Santourian said. "Augustin has taken technical skills to another level. Not many people occupy that level with him."

The recital program includes works by Fransciso Coll, Aspen Music Festival faculty member Stephen Hartke, and the Ligeti violin concerto. Hadelich, 34, also commissioned British composer Thomas Adès to write a new cadenza to the Ligeti piece, and Adès complied with an extended sonic fireworks show of a solo. Video of Hadelich's performances of it became a social media sensation early this year after a recital in Boston.

"With this cadenza, there is a lot of horse hair flying," Santourian said with a laugh. "It's a stunning display of Thomas's imagination and his understanding of Ligetti's work."

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IF YOU GO …

What: Aspen Festival Orchestra with Stefan Jackiw

Where: Benedict Music Tent

When: Sunday, July 8, 4 p.m.

How much: $85

Tickets: Wheeler Opera House and Harris Concert Hall box offices; aspenmusicfestival.com

More info: The program includes Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D major along with works by Andrew Norman, Straussa and Ravel.

What: A Recital by Augustin Hadelich

Where: Harris Concert Hall

When: Wednesday, July 18, 8:30 p.m.

How much: $60

Tickets: Wheeler Opera House and Harris Concert Hall box offices; aspenmusicfestival.com

More info: The program includes Ligetti’s Violin Concerto along with works by Francisco Coll, Stephen Hartke and Takemitsu.