Violinist Alexander Kerr Returns with Barber & Dvorak on November 12

The Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra’s music director Larry Rachleff takes the podium on Saturday, November 12 with violinist Alexander Kerr playing Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto. The Orchestra will also perform Dvorak’s Sixth Symphony and Dreamtime Ancestors, a 2015 composition by Christopher Theofanidis. The concert is Saturday, November 12 at 8:00pm, with an Open Rehearsal Friday, November 11 at 5:30pm.

About the Artist

Alexander Kerr’s expressive and charismatic style has made him one of the most accomplished and versatile violinists on the international music scene today. The Dallas Morning News praised a previous performance of the Barber concerto: “He brought a fetching illusion of spontaneity to the Barber concerto’s opening, as if dreamily trying out different phrase treatments, then dispatched the perpetual-motion finale with utter authority.”

  • Soloist: Regarded as a masterful virtuoso with an elegant, old-world sound, Mr. Kerr has appeared as soloist with major orchestras throughout the United States and Europe, working with such renowned conductors as Mariss Jansons, Robert Spano, Alan Gilbert and Jaap van Zweden. An active chamber musician, Mr. Kerr has collaborated with Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Edgar Meyer and many others.
  • Concertmaster and Educator: In 1996 at the age of 26, Mr. Kerr was appointed to the prestigious position of Concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, for nine successful years. In 2008 he became Principal Guest Concertmaster of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and in September 2011, he assumed his role as Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Since 2006, he has held the endowed Linda and Jack Gill Chair in Music as Professor of Violin at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.


At a glance

TACO Classical Concert Series
Saturday, November 12 at 8:00pm

Larry Rachleff, conductor
Alexander Kerr, violin

THEOFANIDIS Dreamtime Ancestors
BARBER Violin Concerto
DVORAK Symphony No.6

Open Rehearsal
Friday, November 11 at 5:30pm
Tickets are $15, available at

*In honor of Veterans Day, we invite
all veterans, service members and their families
to our Open Rehearsal of Barber & Dvorak FREE OF CHARGE.
Please call 401.248.7000 for details*

About the concert: stories behind the music

Dreamtime Ancestors                                      
Christopher Theofanidis (1967- ) 

Christopher Theofanidis is one of the top American composers active today. With an education from Yale, the Eastman School of Music and the University of Houston, Theofanidis has remained close to the academic scene as well as the world of professional classical music. He is a former faculty member of the Peabody Conservatory and the Juilliard School and currently teaches at the Yale School of Music. He has been honored with several important prizes, including the International Masterprize, the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship, a Fulbright fellowship to France, a Tanglewood fellowship and two fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He also served as Composer of the Year for the Pittsburgh Symphony during their 2006-07 season.

Commissions from prestigious orchestras and other sources attest to the popularity and extremely high quality of his music. One of the most recent of these was for Dreamtime Ancestors from a consortium of orchestras sponsored by New Music for America, composed for the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra, Steven Karidoyanes conducting. Immediate success followed the October 2015 premiere. During the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, the work will be performed in all 50 states as well as abroad.

Inspiration: Dreamtime Ancestors is based on the Australian aboriginal creation myths connected to “dreamtime,” where each of us is connected to each other through our “dreamtime ancestors” in the past, present and future. Theofandis writes:

“Songlines” refers to the way the dreamtime ancestors leave earthly remnants of their existence: rivers, mountains, etc. are all direct connections to our ancestors’ being. In this first movement, there is a weaving line that moves about and ‘threads’ the other materials and melodies of the movement. 

The second movement, “Rainbow Serpent,” is a reference to one of the big “Ur”-characters in the dreaming — a kind of Brahma-like figure. This movement has a string section focus, and the main melody moves about chromatically leaving a “rainbow” in its wake.    

The third movement, “Each stone speaks a poem,” refers to the idea that the poetry of our collective history surrounds us every day and requires our connection to all thingsThis movement is more earthy and driven.

Violin Concerto, op.14
Samuel Barber

Grand tour: In the years following his graduation from the Curtis Institute, Samuel Barber spent time traveling and composing in Europe under various stipends and grants. Between 1935 and 1937 he won the Prix de Rome and two Pulitzer Travel Scholarships. Barber worked on the development of his orchestral style during his European residencies. In 1939, Barber wrote the first two movements of the Violin Concerto in a small Swiss village and Paris before the threat of war hastened his return to the United States.

Is that all you’ve got? A patron had commissioned this concerto for a young virtuoso. When the violinist reviewed the two complete movements, reportedly he declared them too simple. Barber promised to give him a more challenging, virtuosic finale. Controversy between the violinist and the composer ended with the violinist’s dismissal.

Turning point: The concerto is a pivotal work in Barber’s style development. The first two movements could be called the culmination of his “neo-Romantic” period of the 1930s. The final movement becomes much more incisive, in the manner of his post-war Capricorn Concerto and Medea Suite. The concerto ends in a dizzying blaze of excitement.

Symphony No. 6 in D major, op.60
Antonín Dvořák

Echoing Brahms: In the D Major Symphony, we can hear similarity to Brahms, the idol of Dvořák’s youth. The first movement has the flavor of Brahms’ Second Symphony. There is a childlike innocence and pastoral feeling to the Dvořák Sixth, and these qualities appear most clearly in the first movement.

Echoing Beethoven? The Adagio has been compared to the Adagio molto movement of Beethoven’s Ninth. The key is the same, and they begin in a pattern of sounds. There the similarity ends, however.

Encore! The big attraction is the Scherzo movement, the third, which was encored at its premiere. It is a classic Czech furiant, a “swaggerers’ dance,” which is particularly furious here. The contrasting, central pastoral Trio section makes effective use of the piccolo. In the finale, marked Allegro con spirit, the fresh, innocent spirit of the first movement returns and with it some suggestions of that movement’s main theme and some exuberant themes of its own.

All programs and artists are subject to change without notice.