Concerto for Amplified Violin and Orchestra
- vn solo(amp),3333 3431 p(6),pf,hp,str
- 6/25/1971 - 4/2/1972
- Paul Fromm
- Fromm Music Foundation for Michael Tilson Thomas and Paul Zukofsky, and for the Boston Symphony Orchestra's observance of the twentieth anniversary of the Foundation, at the Berkshire Music Center
I composed my Violin concerto during 1971 and 1972. The work was commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation for this evening's performers, and it is a pleasure once more to pay tribute in this note to the assistance Paul Fromm has so long and selflessly rendered to contemporary music.
The Concerto is in three movements, but they are mere slicings of one continuous polyphonic fabric. Thus, though the surface of each movement is differently articulated and therefore a contrast to its neighbors, the whole work is basically a progress from the slow to the fast, and the disjunctive to the continuous -- all acheived, of course, in an indirect, non-linear fashion.
The work's 'continuous polyphonic fabric' is a generalized four-voice affair, of which the soloist has one. His continous presence, as the sole spokesman for this voice, and his consequent need to balance three other, more complexly ramified voices in the orchestra, make his electronic amplification a necessity. I thus provided indications for amplification in my score.
Paul Zukosky writes:
Charles Wuorinen specifies amplification for the violin in order that the solo instrument may equal, and even dominate the full symphony orchestra. In this way he avoids the problems of balance usually encountered in concertos for stringed instruments and orchestra. When he first discussed with me the idea of amplification, there seemed to be two possible solutions: the first was a 'contact' microphone, the second a highly directional 'air' microphone. Neither of these is however ideal — the contact method gives poor frequency response and picks up extraneous noise, while the air method not only restricts the violinist's movement, but also is visually unattractive. Further, we were interested not in a purely electronic instrument, only in amplifying the sound of the normal violin. We found the answer to our problem in a special 'Barcus-Berry bridge', produced and distributed by William Lewis & Son of Lincolnwood, Illinois. It is a regular violin bridge with a transducer built into it. There is a direct line output to a preamplifier, from where the signal can be routed to any additional electronic systems, or directly to loudspeakers. The system prevents the reproduction of noise from the finger board, produces a fine frequency response, and allows the performer freedom of movement. It seems an almost ideal solution for the amplification of a stringed instrument.
"Attention arresting music ... a super-virtuoso piece...An intricate journey through an orderly jungle of musical ideas, where peppery filigrees jump from percussion to winds to strings and back again, where the solo violin describes high flying arches that gain energy from their own motion, where the very high, palpitating E of the solo that begins the concerto returns, at the very end, in a lower octave, but amplified into an agonized, or perhaps triumphant, scream." Leighton Kerner, Village Voice "An exciting work." Michael Steinberg, Boston Globe