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Duration: 28 minutes

CONCERTO FOR VIOLIN AND ORCHESTRA
"Auld Swaara" (1993)
Commissioned by Koussevitzky Music Foundation for Michelle Makarski and the Albany Symphony Orchestra

I. Allegro festivo
II. Auld Swaara -- Fantasy on a Shetland Fiddle Tune


Orchestra
2 Flutes (both double Piccolo), 2 Oboes (2nd doubles English Horn), 2 B-flat Clarinets, 2 Bassoons (2nd doubles Contrabassoon), 4 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Tuba, 4 Percussionists (4 pairs of Drumsticks, Vibraslap, Sistrum, Castanets, Maracas, Wood Block, Bass Drum, Tamtam, Vibraphone, Marimba, Timpani), and Strings

My violin concerto is cast in two movements, the first of which might be regarded as the concerto proper, and the second as a companion piece to it, an extended epilogue. In writing the first movement, I had in mind the vigor and brightness of the Italian Baroque concerto, as well as its traditional three part form: two fast sections flanking a subordinate slower section. The movement begins with four pairs of drum-sticks struck together four times, quickly setting the stage for the violin's opening dance-like solo. The orchestra gradually joins in, arranged in choral groups: high string harmonics, low brass chords, piccolos with violins, each playing material unique to that instrumentation and each with a slightly different idea of where the downbeat is. The violin dances on above this shifting background, sometimes leading the dance, other times picking up an idea from the orchestra and veering off with it in a new direction. The middle section begins with a slow series of quiet chords, moving from strings to mallet percussion to winds and, finally, to low horn, tuba, and basses. A recurrent four-note rhythmic figure in the timpani and contrabassoon might be heard as an echo of the four opening drum-stick strokes. The violin sings a long, arching melody in double-stops, and then lads on to a series of progressively faster sections, each of which has something of the character of a variation on the preceding one. This process culminates in a sudden explosion of rattles clearing the way for the final section. Marked "quasi una cadenza," the last part opens with a spirited exchange between the soloist and entire orchestra, as if the violin were challenging the orchestra to a duel. the soloist then rushes off in a new direction, the orchestra following with fragments from the first section, finally building to a fast coda.

With the dancing over now, in the second movement the soloist has become a traveler journeying homeward in a broad musical landscape. The thematic basis for this movement is "Auld Swaara," a Shetland Island fiddle tune. A lament for a lost fisherman, it is traditionally played by Shetland fiddlers at day's end just before putting the instrument away. In my piece, the tune appears at first in elusive fragments, gradually becoming clearer towards the end, when the violin plays it (or, rather, my own free adaptation of it) in its entirety against a background of slowly drifting string chords that part for the soloist like clouds.

Recorded by Michelle Makarsi and the Riverside Symphony, George Rothman, conductor, on
New World Records
80533-2

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