is many things: a Pulitzer prize
winner for his 2nd Symphony, a highly
regarded film composer, and the
composer of some of the modern masterworks
among orchestral concertos. He writes
for a myriad instruments and in
many contrasting styles, often even
in the same work. However, with
all of the diversity, there is one
point of consistency to his compositional
style. He aims to remain accessible
for the average listener while still
writing music worthy of note by
the professors and critics.
As such he was
an ideal composer for the 1998 movie
The Red Violin. The
score requires original compositions
in the styles of five different
locales and periods, all the while
holding together as a single musical
and theatrical thread. After the
movie came out Corigliano made a
six-movement suite from the material.
The opening thematic statement is
simple and somber with the variations
reflecting styles as diverse as
folk music and Paganini. The virtuosity
demanded of the performer is impressive.
As one would hope of a premier recording,
Philippe Quint is more than up to
the challenge on this work, and
the others presented on this album.
He effortlessly rattles off the
acrobatic runs fully filling the
sonic space with his instrument.
On this recording he is easily the
equal of Joshua Bell, who performed
the material in the film.
The other Corigliano
work here, Sonata for Violin
and Piano, is in four movements
for violin and piano. This is among
Corigliano's earliest works, written
in 1963. The opening is a somewhat
angular and energetic dialog between
violin and piano, both vying for
attention and, here, both seeming
to deserve it. The second movement
is a melancholy, emotional, wistful
melody accompanied by a pensive
piano. The third movement finally
gives way to the piano for an opening
declamation, and then features passages
where both instruments play unaccompanied
or commingled but not necessarily
intertwined. Finally the fourth
movement is truly virtuosic with
polyrhythms and polymeters galore.
This is the work of a man who wants
to write a duet rather than a violin
sonata with piano accompaniment.
Throughout the virtuosity is there
to achieve musical means, not merely
to show off the musician's ability
to play a lot of notes in a short
time. When the performers are up
to the task the work is among the
shining examples of the violin concerto.
Again, the performers are suited
to the task. The work is not often
recorded, and this particular recording
could prove to be definitive.
Aside from the
two Corigliano works, there are
three collections of musical "portraits"
by Virgil Thomson. Each movement
is either titled or subtitled with
a person's name, and one assumes
is endowed with the personalities
of the namesakes. These are generally
speaking not the virtuosic powerhouses
that the first works are, but each
one is - nearly by definition -
a highly personal piece where piano
and violin intertwine to form a
musician's interpretation of a person's
essence. One must assume that each
1-2 minute piece exposes nationality
or temperament through song style.
For instance he titled some of the
movements Tango Lullaby:
A Portrait of Mlle. Alvarez de
Toledo or Cynthia Kember:
of each work is solid and interesting.
Each short work is given its full
attention and due. So while the
vary in style and substance, sometimes
being chamber works and other times
being solo violin, sometimes being
atonal and other times seeming very
nearly Classical in style, each
performance is exquisite.
For any lover of
Corigliano or the solo violin this
disc is a real find. None of these
pieces are often recorded, and all
of them are outstanding, both from
a compositional and performance
by Dan Morgan