Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

Composed: 2009
Commission:  CityMusic Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, James Gaffigan, conductor, Arts and Culture as Economic Development Program, Cuyahoga County of Ohio, The Honorables Jimmy Dinora, Timothy F. Hagan, Peter Lawson Jones
Premiere:   Michi Wiancko, violin, CityMusic Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, James Gaffigan, conductor, March, 28, 2007
Duration: 24 minutes
Instrumentation:  solo violin, 1 (picc) 122; 2210; 1perc., strings, (65432)


I.  Narrative
II. Ballad
III. Gypsy

 The Concerto for Violin and Chamber Orchestra was commissioned for violinist Michi Wiancko by CityMusic Cleveland, James Gaffigan, Conductor, and sponsored in part by Arts and Culture as Economic Development (ACE) Program, The Honorables Jimmy Dimora, Timothy F. Hagan, and Peter Lawson Jones with Co-Sponsors Clurie Bennis, Dr. Victor Ceicys and Mrs. Kathleen Browning Ceicys, the Elyria Musical Art Society, Pamela and Scott Isquick and David Krakowski.  Violinist Michi Wiancko, for whom this concerto was written, was a great source of inspiration.  Her virtuosic, fiery playing and beautiful, singing sound in all the traditional concertos was in my mind as I wrote, as well as her interest in other forms of musical expression – gypsy bands, pop-folk, and trip-hop.  In the first movement, current politics also inspired a short musical quote that supports the message of the movement.  Underlying feelings of frustration and sadness haunt this movement.  However, the second and third movements lead to brighter and happier moods. The concerto is also an experiment in layering.  More and more, my harmonic sound is about the contrasts that occur by juxtaposing or overlaying consonant and dissonant (tonal-type and atonal-type) harmonies.  To me this says – “21st century”.  After beginning the second, slow movement at least twenty times, trying complex and thick openings, melody with complex harmonies, melody with tonal harmonies, I leaned more and more toward utter simplicity.  Somehow a melody, beautiful in its absolutely simplicity that would gradually evolve to more complexity and more layers seemed the most powerful.  A request from Michi for a cadenza with optional drum set led to a great deal of experimentation on my part.  It was an interesting challenge to see whether I could layer this element into my composition style in a convincing way.  Many rewrites occurred before I was satisfied that I had something that worked and also contributed to the overall value of the piece.   A note in the part encourages the soloist to improvise during this cadenza if so inclined.  When I heard Michi play in a gypsy band at Lincoln Center, I knew the last movement must be gypsy-style music.  In the fast music the musicians have so much fun, playing with abandon at break-neck speed!  This movement is about high spirits, having fun, playfulness, going fast, sometimes-wild music, and the dazzling violin!   


"...Brouwer's Concerto for Violin and Chamber Orchestra adds another fine vehicle to the repertoire... Brouwer finds a keen balance between contemporary and tonal language throughout her fresh creation."  - Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Spring 2008

Regarding the CityMusic Cleveland CD:
"But the real winner here, and the primary reason for buying this disc, is the superb offering by... Brouwer, one of our best composers, and certainly near the top.  This Violin Concerto, written specifically for this ensemble, is simply a marvel to hear, combining phenomenally difficult solo passages with some of the most ingratiating melodies I have heard in a recent composition...  For those of us who, years ago, were wondering where music might turn after the challenges of the atonalists, this is it.  She is not afraid of the modern idiom, and uses whatever techniques are called for in the moment, but at the same time never loses sense of that fundamental and essential musical ingredient called melody.  The work ends in a veritable Gypsy orgy, high spirits with just a degree of danger inhabiting the outskirts.  These last two movements make the opening, a dark and sometimes borderline melancholy, stand in great contrast, and deceptively set you up for wild changes in temperament that add to the frustration-elation cycle of the piece.  Michi Wiancko, concermistress of CityMusic Cleveland, plays as if possessed with an innate understanding of this music that lends itself to a completely convincing reading." --Steven E. Ritter, Fanfare, May-June 2008

"The (Concerto for Violin and Chamber Orchestra) has long stretches of tricky, impassioned cadenzas and a second movement ("Ballad") influenced by British folk-pop. This is no attempt at crossover appeal:  the music sounds spontaneous and disarming. Brouwer adds dashes of gypsy music to the finale, in keeping with the soloist's interest in music off the classical path." - Donald Rosenberg, Gramophone, March 2008