Timothy Chooi & Prokofiev 1/ Debussy

Sun 08.05.22 15:00

Kaija Anneli Saariaho, Laterna Magica (Belgian premiere)
Sergei Prokofiev, Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19
Claude Debussy, Images pour orchestre

In her composition Laterna Magica, the celebrated Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho plays with various tempos, each exposing different parameters. Fast tempos emphasise rhythmic continuity, while slow tempos focus the attention on specific timbres. The symbol of this process is the laterna magica: a device that could project moving images. As you turn the handle faster, individual images give way to continuous movement. Kaija Saariaho composed Laterna Magica while reading the eponymous autobiography by Swedish film director, Ingmar Bergman. The words whispered by the members of the orchestra are the terms Bergman used to describe the lighting in his films.

In 2019, the young Canadian star violinist Timothy Chooi won the second prize in the Queen Elisabeth Competition. He played Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1, composed in 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution. Prokofiev fled to the United States as soon as he finished composing the work, and then to Western Europe. It was not until 1923 that the concerto received its premiere in Paris. One of the first violinists who performed the piece, Joseph Szigeti, described Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 as “a blend of fairytale naivety and daring ferocity”. Prokofiev inverted the traditional concerto structure (slow-fast-slow instead of fast-slow-fast), demanding a high level of virtuosity from the violinist, and comes up with some stunning melodies, especially in the first and last movements in particular.

Debussy’s Images pour orchestre is in three movements, the second of which, entitled Iberia, is undoubtedly the best known. Inspired by a visit to a bullfight, he paints an extremely accurate musical picture of Spain. “It’s incredible that this Frenchman, who only visited Spain once, has been able to showcase Spanish folklore in such masterful fashion,” wrote the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla about Debussy.


Hugh Wolff, conductor
Timothy Chooi, violin