Philip Glass – Violin Concerto (1987)

Philip Glass
Violin Concerto
I 00:00
II 06:50
III 15:23

Adele Anthony, violin
Ulster Orchestra
Takuo Yuasa, conductor

Sculpture: Louise Nevelson, Lunar Landscape, 1959, Turin, Galleria d’Arte Moderna

The Violin Concerto is the first of many orchestral works that Glass has composed on commission since the late 1980s, following the acclaim accorded to Satyagraha and Akhnaten. The choice of the concerto form seemed a natural one for a composer then currently obsessed with opera: he found it ‘more theatrical and more personal’ than music for orchestra alone. The work was premiered by Paul Zukofsky and the American Composers Orchestra under Dennis Russell Davies in New York on 5th April 1987. […] The concerto’s familiar three-movement, broadly fast-slow-fast, layout was in fact accidental. Zukofsky, who collaborated closely with the composer during the work’s gestation, had requested a slow, high finale. Glass’s original plan to have five short movements changed in the course of composing the piece, and he ended up with two movements followed by a third one which concludes with a slow coda making references to the material of both previous movements, thus also complying with his soloist’s wishes. The composer’s familiar repeated arpeggiations, together with other types of figuration likewise idiomatic meat and drink to the fiddle, sometimes predominate over the melodic impulse. Yet this choice of solo instrument has also inspired lyrical material, intercut with and sometimes counterpointing the arpeggiations in quite dramatic fashion in the first movement. The central movement’ s set of variations on a descending bass line allows the solo part to soar and the variations themselves to rise and fall in a simple but moving progression, while the coda to the finale brings another quite dramatic movement, and the work as a whole, to a rapt conclusion . The affecting minor modes and chromatically shifting harmonics of the Violin Concerto are entirely typical of Glass’s style at the time it was composed.

From Music Notes by Keith Putter


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