• John Harbison
  • Concerto for Violin (1980)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)

rev. 1987

  • Violin
  • 28 min

Programme Note

Composer note:

The Violin Concerto retains some of the outline of the classical concerto, redrawing them to meet the needs of the ideas. The sequence of the sonata, variation-song form, and rondo is a well established one, as is the presence of opening tutti’s for the orchestra, and the prominence and virtuosity of the solo part. The emotional progress is from dark to light, so that the menacing fanfare at the opening eventually becomes the basis for a paean to American country fiddling. The ordering of the ideas in not classical, but is based on the reliance of all the important material on the same pair of intervals (A-C, B-D). This connection (often subliminal, affecting accompaniments as well as melodies) leads to an unusual mobility between events.

The thematic returns in the first movements are completely reordered, with severe dramatic consequences. The slow movement chooses the second of it’s two themes as the subject for free variations, with the first as a frame. The “cadenza” occurs before the last movement, and is a reflection on the slow movement.

The concerto was written over a three year period, but in very quick bursts (the opening tutti and thirty bars of the solo entrance were written one night in March 1978, absolutely without premonition). This fluency was probably due to the influence of Rose Mary Harbison, my knowledge of her playing style, and my confidence in her technical daring and musical insight

--John Harbison