Double Violin Concerto featuring Mark O'Connor and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (2008)

cover of Double Violin Concerto featuring Mark O'Connor and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (2008)

released 2008   OMAC Records (dist. by Allegro and IODA)

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Double Violin Concerto
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At its premiere, the Chicago Sun-Times wrote "... a double violin concerto that prompted the kind of mid-performance applause usually heard in a jazz club."

The Rocky Mountain News described the piece as "... a work that leaps, sighs and bounces with unstoppable energy."

Also on the CD, Mark's much-loved "Appalachia Waltz," the Johnny Appleseed Suite," (featuring Bryan Sutton on guitar and John Jarvis on piano) and a beautiful rendition of "Amazing Grace."

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Press Release for Mark O'Connor's Double Violin Concerto (OMAC-8)

Mark O'Connor's Double Violin Concerto
Featuring Mark O'Connor and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg
The Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop conducting

When Mark O'Connor and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg premiered his "Double Violin Concerto" with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2000, the Chicago Sun-Times described the incredible evening:  "The Nutcracker Suite' dancing through warm summer air, a double violin concerto that prompted the kind of mid-performance applause usually heard in a jazz club. The mood definitely
was looser than usual at Saturday night's Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert"

Written in 1997, and recorded live in 2003 in Denver's Boettcher Hall, the Double Violin Concerto is Mark O'Connor at his genre bending finest.  Under the baton of Maestra Marin Alsop (now at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra), the soloists and the spectacular Colorado Orchestra create a musical experience that paints vivid pictures of intimate jazz clubs and glamorous dance floors.

The Denver Post wrote of a performance of the Double Concerto:  "Because the three-section piece keys so much on the soloists, it is essential to have first-rate performers with a real sense of showmanship. And the symphony got exactly that in O'Connor, a mean folk and jazz fiddler, and
Salerno-Sonnenberg, a classical virtuosa with the ideal spunk, theatricality and versatility for such crossover music. They are perfectly matched – both incredible talents."

Rocky Mountain News weighed in calling the "Double Violin Concerto "a work that leaps, sighs an bounces with unstoppable energy. Boasting movements with titles such as "Swingin'' and "Midnight Bandstand Blues," the concerto owes a major debt to the jazzy slides of Stephane Grappelli. There are blue notes and syncopations aplenty in this 33-minute work "no shortage of smile- inducing riffing."

Also included on this stunning disc, a stunning duet featuring O'Connor and Salerno-Sonnenberg performing a duet arrangement of  O'Connor's beloved "Appalachia Waltz," a composition first recorded with Yo-Yo Ma, and O'Connor's richly orchestrated version of "Amazing Grace."

The "Johnny Appleseed Suite," which completes this disc, is music Mark O'Connor originally composed for the ®Grammy-nominated children's recording Johnny Appleseed, which featured the narration of Garrison Keillor. O'Connor later orchestrated the four-movement suite for symphony orchestra and, in this version, adds his violin as one of the solo instruments. About the suite, the Rocky Mountain News wrote "O'Connor's Johnny Appleseed Suite' bubbles with naive charm and sweet nostalgia. Fine guest stints by pianist John Jarvis and guitarist-mandolinist Bryan Sutton."

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Double Violin Concerto
for two violins and orchestra

"Double Violin Concerto" for two violins and orchestra, composed in 1997, is
my third symphonic concerto for violin.  It follows "The Fiddle Concerto"
from 1992-93 and "Three Pieces for Violin and Orchestra (Fanfare for the
Volunteer) from 1995-96.  Other than the obvious difference of having two
violins featured in this concerto, I also make a stylistic departure with the
"Double Concerto" from the first two pieces.  Where I previously concentrated
on bringing folk fiddling traditions of America and Ireland to the symphonic
setting, here I utilize some of the most important musical inspirations I
absorbed as a child -- Blues and Jazz.

I had only been playing the fiddle for seven months when I entered my first
contest at the age of 11.  For the tunes of choice in the contest rounds, I
was the only contestant who routinely chose to play the Blues.  By the time I
was 13, I was quoting the solos of Jazz greats Stephane Grappelli and Joe
Venuti in my jams with other musicians. (Grappelli was later to become my
most significant mentor when I began touring with him in 1979.)

In this concerto, I wanted to concentrate on swing rhythms in the outer
movements.  For this I employed the use of canonic writing, both in the
violin solo parts and the orchestration, to emphasize the swing feel.  The
accents and melodic phrasing within the cannon bring out the syncopation, an
essential element in achieving the feel of Jazz and Swing.  In some cases,
the swing rhythms are the result of implication rather than performance.  In
the case of the two violins, how the parts fit together; in the case of the
orchestra, how the layers of parts in fugue-like configurations all create
rhythmic pulses in the music.   My method of creating canonic syncopation is a unique and possibly even a new idea for orchestration.  Rather than using vertical writing as has been
commonly used in orchestral jazz, I use an almost completely linear writing
technique in the 1st and 3rd movements.  

A refrain can be heard again and again throughout the three movements,
melodically linking them, though the refrain is delivered contrarily in the
three corresponding tempos and rhythmic feels.  The 9-note motive stated once then immediately repeated an octave lower is the germ phrase of the 1st movement and then becomes an introduction, interlude and ending for the 2nd movement.  Lastly, the refrain is used as a subordinate counterpoint theme in the last movement.

With the slow theme of the 2nd movement, I wanted to conjure a nostalgic,
big-band ambiance... the feeling of midnight on the dance floor.  
Alternately, the two violins speak to each other in classical and bluesy
melodic language.

The two-violin cadenza in movement 1 is a duel, in Jazz terms, a "cutting"
contest.  The violins begin trading long passages that get incrementally
shorter.  Each attempts to "out do" the other until there is nothing more to
do but join forces.  Each plays over the top of the other in a furious, jazzy
barrage.  In the 3rd movement, each violinist takes a cadenza.  The first
soloist interprets the music in a more melodic, romantic and classically
modern voice.  The second soloist musically "struts" alongside a walking bass
line in the truest of the Jazz solo traditions -- improvisation.

Mark O'Connor

updated 5 years ago