Instrumentation: vn/picc/2332/cbn/4330/timp/4 perc/hp/cel/str
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (2008) World Premiere
Programme Note John Buckley
The first performance of a new composition is an exciting occasion for any composer and hopefully for the audience also. I believe that the work doesn’t really come into full existence until it has been performed in public. I am greatly honoured that the world premiere of my Concerto for Violin and Orchestra is taking place in The Lucas Theatre for the Arts in Savannah with Gwendolyn Masin as soloist and Maestro Peter Shannon conducting the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Concerto for Violin and Orchestra was commissioned by violinist Gwendolyn Masin, to whom it is dedicated, with financial assistance from the Irish Arts Council. The piece has been on the drawing board for quite a long time. The first sketches were drafted as far back as 2002 and the work was completed in 2008. While the concerto is newly conceived and composed, it draws on the extraordinary history of the violin concerto as a genre; the shadows and echoes of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Dvořák, Berg, Szymanowski, Shostakovich, Carter and Dutilleux hover in the background and sometimes float close to the surface. My concerto attempts to juxtapose explosive dramatic qualities and lyrical grace. Above all I have sought to explore the wonderful expressive qualities of the violin, against a colourful web of orchestral sonority.
The concerto is in a single movement, lasting approximately twenty five minutes and falling broadly into four sections. A slow tranquil opening, emerging from the quietest whisper, sets the dialogue between soloist and orchestra in motion. The second section is faster, at times light and playful and at other times vigorous and dramatic. This section culminates in a fiery episode for full orchestra.
The following slow and expressive third section is at the emotional core of the work and attempts to explore the lyrical and song-like character of the violin. Traditionally, the concertos of the Classical and Romantic eras feature at least one cadenza, marked by the use of flamboyant bravura-style playing. The fourth section of my concerto pays homage to this tradition. The cadenza is highly demanding technically, and while fully notated, should give the impression of an inspired improvisation. It leads to a quiet conclusion, the music disappearing into the silence from which the whole piece emerged.