MSO to feature Elena Urioste and 'the crown jewel of the violin repertoire'
Many times, musicians say that music is in their blood. They grew up surrounded by music in the home, or picked up skills from their parents and grandparents.
Such was not the case for Mexican-American violinist Elena Urioste. Her parents were not musicians, but they were instrumental and supportive in her pursuit of music as a profession.
“I would be absolutely nowhere without the love and support of my parents,” Urioste said in an email interview with a Herald-Mail reporter. “Only in recent years have I begun to fully appreciate what an enormous leap of faith they took by first allowing and then encouraging their child to pursue completely uncharted waters — not being musicians themselves — and I am so grateful that they chose to explore the unfamiliar terrain of the classical music world alongside me.”
The recently selected BBC New Generation Artist will be featured as a guest artist with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra Saturday, April 27, and Sunday, April 28, at the Beethoven: Heroines and Heroes concert at The Maryland Theatre. Program highlights include classical and romantic-era composer Ludwig van Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, Violin Concerto and Symphony No. 3, “Eroica.”
Raised primarily in the Philadelphia area, Urioste said her earliest musical inspiration came from the television show, “Sesame Street.” At age two, she saw Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman featured on an episode.
“(He was) chatting and playing his violin. I was instantly enamored. Apparently, I began pestering my parents for a violin immediately, and after three years they finally relented,” she said. “I have Mr. Perlman to thank for kicking off the whole operation, and I continue to admire his playing to this day.”
Urioste attended a public school that offered a stringed instruments program. She started Suzuki method lessons in kindergarten at age five and began studying privately shortly thereafter.
Since first appearing with the Philadelphia Orchestra at age 13, the Curtis Institute of Music graduate has played with orchestras throughout the United States, including the Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, the Boston Pops, the Buffalo Philharmonic, and the Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Richmond and San Antonio symphony orchestras. In Europe, she has appeared with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Wurzburg Philharmonic and Hungary’s Orchestra Dohnányi Budafok.
In terms of musical influences, as a young violinist, Urioste was “absolutely obsessed” with renowned Soviet classical violinist David Oistrakh. In more recent years, she has favored the “warmth and intimacy” of an Austrian-born violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler, whom she said she would choose as her one “desert island” violinist.
She credits her teachers Choong-Jin Chang, David Cerone and Joseph Silverstein for providing her with advice and mentorship.
“Without them,” she said, “I would be a tangled mess of a violinist with big dreams but no idea how to translate desire into action.”
Urioste has media credits including radio programs “From the Top” and “Performance Today,” appearances on Telemundo and NBC’s “Today Show.” She has been featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary “Breaking the Sound Barrier” and in numerous magazines.
She won the London Music Masters Award, a Salon de Virtuosi career grant, and first prize of the Sion International Violin Competition. But especially precious to Urioste was receiving the honor of first-place laureate in both the Junior and Senior divisions of the Sphinx Competition, which led to her 2004 Carnegie Hall debut and her annual return as soloist.
“(The Sphinx Organization’s) annual competition gave me my first taste of the career I’d always dreamed of and continues to encourage and support dreams of a vibrant, fulfilling life in music,” she said.
Urioste said she has collaborated before with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Elizabeth Schulze. Her featured piece in the upcoming Heroine’s and Heroes program, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, is considered by many to be “the crown jewel of the violin repertoire,” she said.
“It is indeed regal, as well as profound, shimmery, intimate and ultimately rollicking good fun,” she said. “There is a crystalline sheen to the work but no end to its depth.”
Structurally, the pieces move in “great harmonic chunks” which Urioste said ground its elegant melodies.
“It’s an intimidating work to perform, for sure, but it’s always been one that has sat comfortably in my fingers and bow arm,” she said. “I really respond to the open, horizontal nature of the writing. It’s a magnificent work and I’m so looking forward to collaborating with Elizabeth and the Maryland Symphony again.”