Instrumentation - 3220 - timp(=ratchet) - perc(2): glsp/vib/t.bells/tgl 2 susp.cym/SD/TD/tam-t - pno(=cel) - harp - strings


Study score 0571523609 for sale, score and parts for hire

Programme Notes

Commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony, Mariss Jansons, Music Director, and The Philadelphia Orchestra, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Music Director, for Pinchas Zukerman. This Concerto, written during the winter of 2001 and spring of 2002, is in three movements played without pause – Recitative, Aria, Gigue. It is quite unnerving to try to usefully characterise for others something which is still being composed at the time of writing! Nevertheless one possible clue to the nature of the piece is that I was tempted above to write “in three scenes”, and to mention that despite the classical associations with the movement titles, the expressive world is sometimes wildly at odds with expectations thus suggested, or so it seems to me. At times the violinist resembles a tightrope walker progressing along a (decidedly unstable) high wire strung across the span that separates the opening and closing sounds of the piece. Pinchas Zukerman has long been a much-appreciated (by me) supporter of my work – he conducted the US premiere of my opera Where the Wild Things Are in 1985, and asked me to write him something longer ago than either of us probably care to remember. I am particularly happy that this joint commission from the Pittsburgh Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestras has resulted in fulfilling that request at last.

© Oliver Knussen


BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London, 14 August 2003 (London premiere) Pinchas Zukerman/BBC SO/Oliver Knussen ‘The high point of the piece is the gorgeously lyrical Aria, in which the soloist soars above a gently syncopated accompaniment. Gigue, meanwhile, is a high-spirited circus act, apparently inspired by a film of a vaudeville fiddler clown. So generous and tireless an advocate of other composers’ music is Knussen that it is easy to forget what a creative genius he is himself.’ Barry Millington (Evening Standard), 15 August 2003 ‘… as bejewelled and compact as most of his scores, but with an unusually easy flow and a soulful center of particular beauty. Movement titles – Recitative, Aria, Gigue – suggest the Neo-Classical; yet there is nothing dry in the athletic larks and spiralling song suspended over 15 minutes between the opening and closing bell clang and mysterious, stratospheric violin.’ Geoff Brown (The Times), 16 August 2003 ‘Knussen's Violin Concerto takes its cue from Baroque forms, with a Recitative, an Aria and a Gigue delineating its three linked movements. In terms of harmony and scoring, Knussen is still indulging the love for the early 20th-century French and Russian colourists that marked his children's operas, but here it provides a lyrical and energetic vehicle for the skills of Pinchas Zukerman, the eloquent soloist.’ Matthew Rye (The Daily Telegraph), 15 August 2003 Aldeburgh Festival, 16 June 2003 (European premiere) Clio Gould/BBC SO/Oliver Knussen ‘Oliver Knussen's Violin Concerto, which was premiered in Pittsburgh a year ago, is his first substantial score since the exquisite Two Organa of 1999, but the wait has been well worthwhile. The new concerto was written for Pinchas Zuckerman, who will introduce it to London at the Proms in August. At the Aldeburgh festival, the BBC Symphony Orchestra was conducted by the composer for the work's UK premiere, with Clio Gould as the fine soloist. The work lasts only 17 minutes, but as always with Knussen, the specific gravity of the music is high. There are three linked movements, conforming to a traditional concerto scheme; they are framed by the sounds of bells and a high harmonic for the solo violin, from which everything appears to flow in the opening Recitative, and into which all of the energy of the final Gigue is absorbed at the end. The central panel is an Aria, a serene violin line steadily unwound over pulsing orchestral figures, which just once curdles into something more threatening. It is beautifully direct. Compared with Knussen's earlier works, the Violin Concerto seems less complex and rhythmically squarer, as if his typical suppleness of metre and melody had been made to conform to the ground plan of classical forms. Yet the effects are still magical; the scoring is full of sleights of hand and brilliantly imagined moments, while the harmonic world is sure and never for a moment predictable. If Knussen set out to write something that would become a repertory piece, then he has certainly succeeded.’ The Guardian (Andrew Clements), 18 June 2003

Violin Concerto

Helsinki Music Centre (Helsinki, Finland)

Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Petri Aarnio/David Afkham