Violin Concerto (2010-2011), 19 minutes
Instrumentation: violin solo; 1-1-1-1; hrn, tpt; 2 perc, hrp; strings.
Premiere: September 15, 2011, Angel Orensanz Center, New York, NY; Kristin Lee, solo violin, Metropolis Ensemble, Andrew Cyr, conductor. Commissioned by Metropolis Ensemble through the DeRosa Family Fund. Entire work released 2012 by Metropolis Ensemble on the Naxos Canadian Classics Label, with Kristin Lee, violin, and Andrew Cyr, conductor.
2013 Juno Award for “Best Classical Composition of the Year.”
Violin Concerto brings together my influence by non-Western traditional music, especially Balinese gamelan music, and my friendship with violinist Kristin Lee. The initial idea for the work began during rehearsals for the premiere of my Piano Concerto in 2009, in which Kristin was the concertmaster of Metropolis Ensemble. Ever so enthusiastic, she suggested how it would be wonderful for me to write a concerto for her. Fast forward a year, and the concerto commission falls into place through the generosity of the DeRosa family.
I started to think seriously about the concerto in the summer of 2010 at the same time as I was preparing for a tour of Bali with the Balinese gamelan with which I have performed for the past three years. The gamelan sonorities ringing through my head were a natural inspiration for me, but just as meaningful was Kristin’s desire to come with me for part of the Bali tour. She wanted to witness first-hand the sounds that have moved me, and wanted to understand where my ideas came from. Upon my return to my home in New York, I started writing in July and finished by October. The concerto draws on the sights, sounds, and memories of Bali that have remained in my heart from the tour, as well as my getting to know Kristin, her firebrand style of playing, and, complementing that, the intense lyricism that she expresses as well.
The work is in one continuous movement with several sections. It starts off high and soft, with bird-like whistles in the strings and eventually culminates in an increasingly driving transition, topped off with a kebyar-like phrase in the orchestra. The first fast section begins with odd-meters and jaunting rhythms in the solo part. A “ghostly” slow section follows, featuring eerie harmonic string writing, and eventually the music accelerates into a second fast section with the solo violin displaying virtuosic moto perpetuo passages. At the climax of this section, an involved cadenza grows toward one of the highest pitches on the violin with the instruction, “play like a rock star.” In the penultimate section of the concerto, the soloist is repeatedly interrupted by the orchestra while quoting from a Javanese folksong called Puspawarna. Eventually, the full texture of this melodic section subsides and the concerto ends as it began, with birdlike whistles fading into ascending glissandi.
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