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Finnish violinist Elina Vähälä Makes Houston Symphony Debut with John Corigliano’s The Red Violin Concerto

HOUSTON (April 6, 2017) – Acclaimed Finnish violinist Elina Vähälä will make her Houston Symphony debut at 8 p.m. April 20 and 22 and 2:30 p.m. April 23 in a program of works by Verdi, Respighi and celebrated American living composer John Corigliano.

Led by guest conductor Vasily Petrenko, the program begins with Verdi’s Overture to Un giorno di regna, followed by Vähälä’s interpretation of Corigliano’s The Red Violin Concerto, a piece inspired by the composer’s Academy Award-winning film score to the 1998 drama The Red Violin. From director François Girard, the film depicts characters whose lives are touched by a rare, red, Italian violin.

“It is no wonder that the concerto form, and the violin concerto in particular, has a deep place in my heart,” Corigliano wrote in a composer’s note. “I have written a half-dozen concerti, but this was my first one for my first love, the violin. The story of The Red Violin is perfect for a lover of the repertoire and the instrument. It spans three centuries in the life of a magnificent but haunted violin in its travels through time and space.”

Vähälä made her orchestral debut at the age of 12 and has since developed a demanding international performance career. Her career continues to expand on the international stage as she wins praise from audiences and musicians alike. She has been described by the Chicago Tribune as having a brilliant technique matched by “abundant spirit, sensitivity and imagination.”

The second half of the program features two technicolor tone poems by Respighi, The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome.  The Fountains of Rome is the first in Respighi’s “Roman trilogy” and includes four movements, each of which depict one of Rome’s fountains at different times of the day. The Pines of Rome, the second of the Roman trilogy, also has four movements and depicts pine trees in different locations in Rome at different times of the day.

“Respighi created the biopic of Rome in music,” Petrenko said. “Whenever I hear The Pines or The Fountains of Rome, a strong visual response comes to mind. He took lessons from Rimsky-Korsakov in the early 1900s and learned much from him about orchestration.”

The concert will take place at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana Street, in Houston’s Theater District. For tickets and information, please call (713) 224-7575 or visit Tickets may also be purchased at the Houston Symphony Patron Services Center in Jones Hall (Monday–Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). All programs and artists are subject to change.


  • Thursday, April 20, 2017, 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 22, 2017, 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, April 23, 2017, 2:30 p.m.

Vasily Petrenko Conductor
Elina Vähälä Violin
Verdi: Overture to Un giorno di regna
John Corigliano: The Red Violin Concerto
Respighi: The Fountains of Rome
Respighi: The Pines of Rome
Tickets from $25

About Vasily Petrenko

Born in 1976, Vasily Petrenko has studied at the St. Petersburg Capella Boys Music School (the oldest music school in Russia), the St. Petersburg State Conservatory and important masterclasses. Following considerable success in a number of international conducting competitions, including the Fourth International Sergei Prokofiev Competition of Conductors (2003), first prize in the Shostakovich Choral Conducting Competition (1997) and first prize in the Sixth Cadaqués Orchestra International Conducting Competition, he was appointed chief conductor of the St. Petersburg Academic Symphony Orchestra (2004-2007).

Vasily is chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic, chief conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic (following a period as principal conductor), chief conductor of the European Union Youth Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Russian Federation. He has also served as principal conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and principal guest conductor of the Mikhailovsky Theatre where he began his career as resident conductor.
Having worked with many of the world’s most prestigious orchestras and music festivals, this and upcoming seasons include tours with the European Union Youth Orchestra and return visits throughout Europe and North America. He debuts with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and with the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Festival.
At home in the opera house, Vasily has more than 30 operas in his repertoire. Last year saw a highly successful debut at the Bayerische Staatsoper with Boris Godunov, and future plans include performances of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk with Zürich Opera.

Vasily has established an award-winning profile as a recording artist, including the Shostakovich symphony cycle for Naxos Records with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Rachmaninoff’s symphonies, orchestral works and piano concertos with Simon Trpceski, among others. Several 2016 releases included Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet (Lawo Classics).             In 2007, Vasily Petrenko was named Young Artist of the Year at the annual Gramophone Awards; and in 2010, he won the Male Artist of the Year at the Classical Brit Awards. He is the second person to have been awarded Honorary Doctorates by both the University of Liverpool and Liverpool Hope University (in 2009) and an Honorary Fellowship of the Liverpool John Moores University (in 2012), awards that recognize the immense impact he has had on the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and the city’s cultural scene.

About Elina Vähälä

Born in the United States and raised in Finland, Elina Vähälä made her orchestral debut with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra at age 12 and was later chosen by Osmo Vänskä as the orchestra’s young master soloist. Her career continues to expand on the international stage as she wins praise from audiences and musicians alike.

Elina has appeared with prestigious orchestras and worked with leading conductors, including Leonard Slatkin, Carlos Kalmar, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Okko Kamu, Jakob Hruša, Thierry Fischer and Leif Segerstam. She has toured throughout the United Kingdom, Finland, Germany, China, Korea and South America. In 2008, she was chosen to perform at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, televised to a worldwide audience.

Last season, she performed throughout Finland with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra performing the early version of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto and enjoyed a tour with Lahti Symphony Orchestra, including concerts in Vienna and Salzburg. She returned to North America performing with orchestras in Buffalo and Colorado. Elina will debut with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Japan as well as with the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra performing John Corigliano’s The Red Violin Concerto under conductor Jeffrey Tate.
With a repertoire that ranges from Baroque to contemporary, Elina has given world premieres of Aulis Sallinen’s Chamber Concerto and Curtis-Smith’s Double Concerto, both written for her and pianist-conductor Ralf Gotho´ni. In addition, she gave the Nordic first performance of Corigliano’s The Red Violin and commissioned a violin concerto from composer Jaakko Kuusisto. Both the Corgiliano and Kuusisto concertos were recorded for BIS in 2013.

Educational activities play an important role in her commitment to music. In 2009, she launched the Violin Academy. Funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, the academy is a masterclass-based educational project for select, highly talented young Finnish violinists. As a devoted chamber musician, Elina Vähälä performs with András Adorján, Yuri Bashmet, Ana Chumachenco, Kim Chee-Yun, Péter Csaba, Itamar Golan, Gotho´ni, Ivry Gitlis, Bruno Giuranna, Gary Hoffman, Steven Isserlis, Frans Helmerson, Cho-Liang Lin, Adam Neiman, Arto Noras, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Alisa Weilerstein. Please visit

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