• Gunther Schuller
  • Concerto for Violin (1976)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • 4(4pic)3+ca.4(2bcl,asx)3(cbn)/4441/timp.5-6perc/cel.hp.pf/str
  • Violin
  • 22 min

Programme Note

Composer Note:

At a time dominated by compositional experimentalism, aleatory sound pieces, and a kind of professional avant-gardism, it might surprise some “experts” — and probably delight many a listener — that a composer would choose to write a violin concerto which in its conception and performance style connects up with an older tradition: that of the virtuoso concerto of the late nineteenth, early twentieth century (let us say, ranging from Brahms/Sibelius to Schoenberg/Bartok/Prokofiev). That is not to say that this work is composed in any of those styles, merely that it attempts to identify itself with that general format, that respects that worthy tradition and does not necessarily wish to break with it.

The Concerto is in three movements, the lat two performed virtually without pause. The schematic form of the Concerto is: First Movement — Introduction (Allegro moderato / Adagio); main section (Allegro vigoroso); Second Movement — Adagio molto sustenuto; Third Movement — Rondo, presto giocoso. The adagio movement is divisible into three major parts which, in turn, consist of two complementary episodes: a chorale–like declamation in the orchestra and a response by the solo violin. Each successive recapitulation of this thematic material is subjected to instrumental/timbral variation and melodic embellishment.

The Third Movement is cast in the, to my view, still inexhaustible and venerable Rondo form of the late eighteenth century: ABACA DAEA. In this Rondo the A sections recall various typically American idioms: in sequence, A1 Ragtime, A2 Country fiddle or square dance music, A3 Waltz, A4 Jazz. The brief alternate, strictly orchestral episodes of B, C, D, E are based on the same idiomatic / stylistic materials, however minus their obvious and native and rhythmic substructure, in other words, in the manner of an abstraction or distillation. Of course, the waltz comes from Austria originally, and “country fiddle” music (jigs and reels) from Ireland and Scotland. But even these musical expressions have been domiciled in America over a century, so that one can speak of typically American forms of these dance musics. I could not forego the opportunity of celebrating these marvelous indigenous forms, so often lightly regarded and underrated by our musical establishments.

—Gunther Schuller