The Fiddle Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1992)
Instrumentation - 3223/4221/timp/perc/harp/strings
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The FIDDLE CONCERTO
The FIDDLE CONCERTO for Violin and Orchestra is Mark O'Connor's first orchestral score, composed when he was 31 years old in 1992-93. The piece was commissioned by the Sante Fe Symphony and premiered in September 1993. A few years later it was recorded for Warner Bros. featuring the Concordia Orchestra with Marin Alsop conducting and the composer as the violin soloist. The recording was named by the BMG Classical Catalog as one of the top ten classical recordings of 1995.
The composition was reviewed by a distinguished panel of composers and was awarded a Meet The Composer grant for another original concerto by O'Connor. Beginning with the premiers in 1993 through the Fiddle Concerto's subsequent performances in to 1998, the year of this publication, it has received more performances with orchestra than any other violin concerto composed in the last 50 years. The violin solo does not include written out cadenzas as they are always improvised by the composer/soloist when performed (as is the case with the 1995 recording).
In the tradition of the great nineteenth century concertos written by composer-performers, this is a work designed to stretch the soloist’s virtuosity to new heights. First and foremost, this is a piece that brings together the two worlds of classical and traditional fiddling in a cohesive, compatible and uncompromising dialog. The richness of O’Connor’s orchestration and eclectic musical quilting were written for the acoustic violin to be amplified to increase its volume by approximately ten decibels. A violinist whose music has been honed as a result concerto were born of the natural outpourings of his musical expression. Composed in three movements with a fast, slow, fast design, the piece includes two completely improvised cadenzas in the outer movements.
"An introduction to the Fiddle Concerto:
The Fiddle Concerto’s first movement features two subjects, a hoe-down and a waltz, which are the two genres that I studied most as a child. After the exposition of the two themes, I have the solo fiddle play an episodic flourish that introduces the colorful characteristics of my fiddling style. The development and variations of the material in the overture commence with the fiddle and orchestra. Throughout the 18-minute movement, the solo fiddle interprets the themes by juxtaposing the rhythmic nature of fiddling with the romantic lyricism of classical in a journey to find a place in the middle where the fiddler meets the classical violins. In the second movement, the haunting waltz sounds almost baroque – sometimes medieval – as fiddler and classical musicians travel back in time to better find a common thread. The five-note motive from the first movement’s main theme is cyclically brought back in a more modern sounding transitional coda, as if it represented a window looking into the present day. The third movement begins with the violin styles completely in sync. For the main theme I use the jig, which is a dance that has roots in both fiddling and classical traditions. The jig, the hoe-down and the waltz combine to make up a fiddle contest round. One can hear this combination of tunes at hundreds of contests throughout the United States and Canada. The second and third movements are connected by the principle theme of each. In the second movement, the first melodic phrase contains seven notes in the minor key. The main theme of the third movement – in the major key – is a lively sister to this phrase which is more greatly revealed on the third repeat, when the two melodies are played at the same time. Now the fiddler is one with the orchestra as this eccentric combination explores new music frontiers." – Mark O’Connor
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