for violin and string orchestraScoring
This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.Composer's Notes
When Yehudi Menuhin asked me to compose a violin concerto for him, I immediately had in mind his unique spiritual and poetic qualities and I felt I should provide a vehicle which would accentuate these rare gifts, and not obscure his deep inner musicianship by virtuoso pyrotechnics.
I treated the violin as a singing instrument so, though keeping within my strict self-imposed discipline of sound-organisation, I constructed rather long and unbroken melodic lines. To further expose the solo part and keep it ever-prominent, as well as to achieve a specific colour and texture, I chose to use an orchestra consisting only of strings.
The Violin Concerto is composed in three movements:
- The Rubato starts with a quasi-cadenza, like an improvisation on one triad. This musical material is carried over to the orchestra as a background while the soloist introduces a long cantilena, characterised by a repeated descending sequence of two intervals, minor second plus major third. This is followed by a new, syncopated thematic idea built on a different triad, this time consisting of minor thirds. In the flow of the music, the solo cantilena re-emerges and the movement ends with the shortened quasi-cadenza. The whole movement is very flexible in tempo (as indicated by the title) in order to give the soloist much freedom of interpretation - in contrast to the steady tempi of the other two movements.
- Adagio is built on alternating minor and major thirds, which the orchestra introduce and which are then taken up by the soloist. I wanted to write this movement with utter simplicity and frugality of means but with much Poetic content, again giving the soloist the opportunity for self-expresssion to speak profoundly through a sparse and most transparent framework.
- The Vivace continues the explorative use of minor and major thirds. However, in the second section, the mirrored melodic line is constructed on a triad consisting of minor thirds, a kind of elaborated reflection from the first movement. Throughout this movement, the emphasis is on the rhythm and constant cross-rhythms, except in the middle section where the soloists play a long cantabile sequence on the G string, interrupted from time to time by short interjections from the orchestra. In this almost dance-like movement, I wanted the soloist to convey the most human feelings of joyousness, vitality and even some sense of humour.
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