The Israeli-born born composer Shulamit Ran was a student of Paul
Ben-Haim. She was able to continue her studies in the USA with
Norman Dello Joio and later with Ralph Shapey.
is a bipartite work. It was written during her residency
(1990-97) with the Chicago Symphony who premiered it on 7
October 1993. The commissioning of the work was supported
by the AT&T Foundation and Meet-the-Composer Orchestra
Residencies Program for the centennials of the Chicago Symphony
Orchestra and the University of Chicago, Orchestra Hall, Chicago.
In the liner-note Ran makes it clear that she had no specific
legends in mind but she refers to the fantasy realms and invokes
heroism, mystery and wonder. It's busy with the full palette
of textures and effects. There's no mistaking that this is
a work of brilliance and upheaval. A less exuberant and less
catastrophically violent tone is struck in the second segment.
It is no less otherworldly with a warm viola solo and iridescent
textures buzzingly suggestive of the Thousand and One Nights.
The work finally fades into the shimmering heat-haze of a
distant horizon. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Ran’s work-list
includes East Wind (1987) and Mirage (1990)
although I have not heard them. The piece receives a virtuoso
outing from Ran's orchestra and its distinguished conductor.
Concerto was premiered by Ittai Shapira with the same
conductor directing the Orchestra of St Lukes on 13 June 2003
at Carnegie Hall. Ran has also written Yearning (1995)
for violin and string orchestra. The Violin Concerto is, in
its first movement, moodily brilliant, giving the impression
of being constantly in flight although it does have some reflective
episodes. The world established by the composer is that of
a mildly dissonant version of the Szymanowski concertos. The
central movement has elements of a grouchy and buzzingly irritable
scherzo yet ends with a sustained passage in alt for
the solo instrument. The finale is peaceful. Ran intended
that the concerto should explore various aspects of the violin's
soul. This she does in its devilish brilliance, its consolatory
voice and its seductive honeyed song.
Shapira is a brilliant artist and has recorded extensively
for ASV-Sanctuary including the concertos by Menotti,
Heath and Barber
and for EMI the Bruch.
He also premiered the Concerto by Avner Dorman. He studied
violin in Israel with Ilona Feher and then at Juilliard with
Dorothy DeLay and Robert Mann.
It would be good
to hear more of Shulamith Ran’s music, especially where, as
in the second part of Legends and the finale of the concerto,
she exposes the vulnerable humanity of her inspiration.
The Concerto was recorded
in front of an invited audience on 5 June 2003 for the BBC Radio
3 programme, Discovering Music. It was a commission by
David Bowerman for Ittai Shapira.
see also Shulamith