German violinist Augustin Hadelich, making his San Francisco Symphony debut this week, has overcome a physical challenge few artists have encountered.
Although his face and arms still show signs of a fire that almost killed him at age 15, when he performs, audiences hear the brilliance that has earned him rave reviews in major concert halls of the world.
When Hadelich plays the Beethoven Violin Concerto at Davies Symphony Hall, the conductor will be Herbert Blomstedt, 85, the orchestra’s conductor laureate.
The occasion fulfills a long-delayed dream for the 29-year-old violinist, who started his career at 7 and impressed Blomstedt in an informal audition in Germany when he was 12.
Hadelich, who resumed his career a decade ago after recovering from the traumatic fire at a farmhouse in Germany, hasn’t had the opportunity to perform with Blomstedt — until now. When Julia Fischer withdrew from scheduled appearances with the symphony for personal reasons, Hadelich was at the top of the list among possible replacements, for good reason.
In recent years, Hadelich has made acclaimed appearances with the New York and Los Angeles philharmonics and the Cleveland Orchestra. He also recorded four CDs of solo violin masterpieces and a CD of tango music.
In addition to the violin piece, this week’s program includes Carl Nielsen’s rarely performed 1922 Symphony No. 5. The grand work, in two movements instead of four, features the snare drum in a prominent part, almost combative with the rest of the orchestra.
Nielsen, a Danish composer, was little known in the U.S. until Leonard Bernstein began championing him in the 1960s at the New York Philharmonic.
In later decades, Blomstedt became one of Nielsen’s best-known advocates. When he led the San Francisco Symphony from 1985 to ’95, he performed and recorded all six of Nielsen’s symphonies with the orchestra. He also recorded a complete set with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, home to Nielsen’s music since the 1940s.
San Francisco Symphony: With conductor Herbert Blomstedt and violinist August Hadelich