3 clarinets in Bb
4 horns in F
3 trumpets in Bb
Since I was about eight years old I have had a love affair with a distant mistress. A mistress who I had only seen in photos or movies, one who I had only read about in books, one who I knew very little about except for the idealized romanticized version that was created in my imagination. My long distance affair was fueled through the years by Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire's films and Ernest Hemingway's stories, by travel guides and maps, by vivid imagination and fantasy.
In the summer of 1998 I finally met my mistress, over three decades after the dream had begun...and she was even more than my imagination had conjured. We had three leisurely months to get to know one another, to wake up together and face each day, to experience the reality that had built up for so long in my head. There was no hurrying the relationship, for it was soon apparent that this was one that would endure through the years. I may part from her, but she will always stay with me.
For in that summer I was awarded a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts, in the center of the city that was my mistress, Paris. The Cité is a residence for people like myself to come to Paris and fulfill their dreams. A place where creative people come to be inspired by the city and by one another.
From my atelier window I could see the water of the Seine glimmering by, the towers of Notre Dame and Tour Eiffel in the distance. My daily strolls through the Latin Quarter or Montparnasse or Montmartre brought me in close touch with the city that proved so inspirational to the likes of Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso and, of course, Ernest Hemingway.
Much of Paris has changed since the twenties, when Hemingway strolled these same streets. But much is the same. And the essence that makes Paris Paris will always remain unchanged.
The concerto is comprised of three movements of approximately equal length. The first is an allegro with a slow introduction, the second is slow and somber, and the finale is quick with an omnipresent driving rhythm. Much of the composition is modal, with the phrygian mode being the most often utilized mode.
The opening harmony, first heard in a bell-like effect in the strings, is one that recurs throughout the composition. Guitarists may recognize the stacked fourths, with a third thrown in for good measure, as the open string tuning of the guitar.
The slow introduction to the first movement presents several musical ideas which will be developed during the course of the concerto. The music then accelerates into a march-like allegro that is the main thrust of the opening movement. A brass fanfare announces this arrival before giving way to the soloist. A highly dissonant climax marks the end of this movement and leads to the slow second movement.
The solo violin begins the middle movement with a four note motive that was first heard in the introduction of the opening movement. This motive forms the basis for the slow movement. Once again the "guitar" chord is heard in the accompaniment, as the soloist unwinds the first four notes and expands the motive. A climatic unison tutti statement leads to a cadenza, which is once again a motivic unwinding of the theme. A brief quiet coda follows the cadenza and closes the movement.
The soloist begins the driving finale accompanied by just a rhythmic ostinato in the timpani. There are two main themes in the finale. The first is heard at the onset. The second is a lighter bouncy theme which enters quietly in the solo violin after the first large climax. After a developmental section, both themes return in a recapitulation in which the soloist and orchestra drive towards the final climax.
The concerto was composed for violinist Joan Griffing. It was premiered by the University-Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra in Lexington, Virginia on 27 March 1999.
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