Revised 2016.
The solo violin part can be purchased from Classical on Demand

  • 2(afl)+pic.2+ca.2+bcl.1+cbn/4.4.2+btbn.1/6perc/pf.cel.2hp/str ( some db with low C
  • Violin
  • 19 min

Programme Note

Related Works
Viola Concerto

First performance
January 16, 2009
Frank-Peter Zimmermann, violin
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
Andrey Boreyko, conductor
Salle Pleyel, Paris, France

I think of my compositions as luminous, crystalline poems — very precise — yet ablaze with spontaneous life and human spirit. [Gerard Manley] Hopkins poems are burning off the page they’re so hot, imaginative, creative and full of explosively gorgeous images and words, even (or perhaps especially) when the words are quiet, subtle and slight. Ditto with Emily Dickinson. Every word is like a miniature bomb. Poets’ beautiful utterances, elegantly crafted, in blazing juxtapositions remain vastly inspiring to me and my music for their meanings, sounds and concision.

— Augusta Read Thomas

Composer note
Flowering across a 20-minute arch, Violin Concerto No. 3 can be thought of as a series of poetic outgrowths and variations, which are organic and, at every level, concerned with transformations and connections. The violin solo is present for almost 100% of the sweeping arc, serving as the protagonist as well as fulcrum point on and around which all musical force-fields rotate, bloom and proliferate.

The work begins with a slow, spacious, elegant solo for violin, accompanied, at first, by delicate sounds in the harps and percussion. Steadily the orchestration thickens, providing natural momentum for the soloist’s necessity to continue “singing” with an inner energy that is ever so gradually becoming animated and increasingly characterized. With each new phrase, across a 14-minute arch, the tempos quicken. At the point when the bongo drums’ solos appear, the music progressively becomes playful, spry and jazzy. This builds into an all-out 3-minute romp – loud, punchy, virtuosic and athletic! Toward the end of the gambol, there is the option for the soloist to play a 30-second cadenza providing it is in the style, syntax and language of the composition and continues a high level of rhythmic energy. The intensity climaxes, ends and we are suddenly in a spacious landscape. A feeling of timeless space leads to the final 3-minutes of the composition, which is dreamy - as if the soloist was delicately floating while chanting an ardent incantation.

The work's subtitle, “Juggler in Paradise,” is a poetic image for the way solo and orchestra relate, a continuous rhapsodic cadenza set against colorful "paradisiacal constellations." It's physical, too: dance is often close by. When the violin starts to speed up, the score suggests playing "as if 'juggling' the notes, rhythms, articulations"; and further on, "like several objects in motion, in the air." The animated, quicksilver orchestrations, at times pointillist like a Seurat paining, at other times akin to bold brush strokes, full and brassy, are continuously juggling and flexibly rearranging.

— Augusta Read Thomas





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