February 22, 2023

Composer is Violin Soloist At Orchestra Performances

SOLOIST IN A WORLD PREMIERE: Violinist William Harvey performs with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra in his “Seven Decisions of Gandhi,” at Richardson Auditorium March 11 and 12. (Photo by Isai Pacheco)

On Saturday, March 11 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 12 at 4 p.m., the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) presents the world premiere of composer William Harvey’s Seven Decisions of Gandhi. Written for violin and orchestra, the work was dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter Ela on the occasion of her 80th birthday.

The composer is soloist, accompanied by Dibyarka Chatterjee on tabla. The program also includes Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 “Pathétique.” Guest conductor Sameer Patel is on the podium for both concerts at Richardson Auditorium, on the campus of Princeton University.

An admirer of Gandhi, Harvey was intrigued by the fact that Gandhi was once a violinist like himself, and this sparked an idea for composing a piece about the peaceful revolutionary. “Had Gandhi decided to stick with the violin, world history might be very different. This gave me the idea that a violin concerto about his life could be based on decisions that made him the international nonviolence icon he is today,” he said. “When I met his granddaughter in Durban, South Africa, in 2017, I ran this idea by her, and she gave the project her blessing. During the pandemic, I finished the concerto just in time to dedicate it to her for her 80th birthday on July 1, 2020. The concerto will hopefully inspire us all to make decisions as well as Gandhi did, and to choose nonviolence and principled thought in all aspects of our lives.”

Violinist, composer, and conductor Harvey has forged a unique international career that has taken him from Carnegie Hall to the jungles of Papua New Guinea to the streets of Kabul. From 2010 to 2014, he conducted the orchestra at Afghanistan National Institute of Music on Afghan national television, for President Karzai, and on tour to sold-out audiences at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. He has performed as soloist with orchestras in the U.S., Mexico, Argentina, and the Philippines, and served as concertmaster of orchestras in the U.S., Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa. His recording of the Violin Concerto by Hector Infanzón was nominated in both classical music categories at the 2021 Latin Grammys. His compositions have been performed at music festivals in Mexico City and San Juan, Argentina.

Patel, who is the artistic director of the San Diego Youth Symphony, will debut this season with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the PSO, and will make return appearances with the Florida Orchestra and La Jolla Symphony and Chorus. He also served for six seasons as associate conductor of the Sun Valley Music Festival and recently concluded a tenure as associate conductor of the San Diego Symphony. Recent performances include Puccini’s Tosca with Houston’s Opera in the Heights, as well as concerts with the orchestras of Toronto, St. Louis, Detroit, New Jersey, Sarasota, Phoenix, Grand Rapids, Sacramento, Naples, and Jacksonville.

Prior to the Seven Decisions of Gandhi concert weekend, Harvey will give a violin masterclass at Wolfensohn Hall, on the campus of the Institute for Advanced Study on Wednesday, March 8 at 7 p.m. Student performers will be selected by a panel of PSO musicians and have the opportunity to perform with an accompanist and receive insight and instruction from the composer and musician. Observation of the masterclass is free and open to the public with ticketed registration.

On Thursday, March 9 at 7 p.m., Harvey will give a lecture at Princeton Public Library introducing traditional instruments of the Indian Subcontinent. Joined by tabla musician Dibyarka Chatterjee, the two will discuss the history of the tabla, the traditional music of India, and Harvey’s Seven Decisions of Gandhi. Admission is free.

Tickets for the March 11 and 12 performances at Richardson Auditorium start at $30; those 5-17 receive a 50 percent discount with an adult purchase. Visit princetonsymphony.org.