David Ludwig Violin Concerto Consortium Commission
The Latest Update
Program Notes and Premiere Tonight!
Here are program notes for tonight’s premiere in Vermont. It’s been quite a journey since this project was first funded by NMUSA!
I started working on my violin concerto right around the time I got married with Bella Hristova, who (without coincidence) is the violinist I wrote the piece for. I only know of a few concertos written by composers for first performances by their spouses, and I don’t know of any that are motivated by the idea of marriage itself, as this one is. My concerto comes with musical references to partnership, empathy, and communion, as it imagines the before, during, and after a traditional wedding ceremony.
Even though the violin concerto doesn’t tell a specific story, I couldn’t help but write something personal. Both of our backgrounds are Eastern European, and the piece is full of dance music from that part of the world; including several dances native to her native Bulgaria. And like me, Bella comes from a musical family; including her father, Yuri Chichkov, whom she never got a chance to meet before he passed away while she was still a child. Chichkov was a wonderful and well-known Russian composer, who himself wrote a violin concerto. After a year of hunting, I tracked down that concerto and quoted from his second movement at a place in my own second movement–as a way to include him in our marriage. There are lots of other quotes in the piece, but that one is the most significant to me.
The first movement “Dances” begins with a loud crash–a jarring but transformative start to something new that transitions into a waltz-like music soon after. All told there are four dances in the first movement, connected by a cadenza and concluded by a Rachenitsa in its traditional irregular meter. The second movement “Ceremony” follows the progression of the wedding ritual. A slow unraveling processional is woven throughout the fabric of this movement, ending in musical rings created by the rise and fall of the violin against solo instruments in the orchestra. The third movement “The Festival” is my version of a Krivo Horo or “Crooked Dance” that captures the way people attempt to walk home after a great party. The music is celebratory to the end, reflecting the coming together of a community inspired by two people promised to preserve each other’s well being for the rest of their lives.
Alan Jordan, Executive Director, VSO (Lead Commissioner)
We are very excited with recent progress in finalizing our commissioning consortium partner roster. In addition to the original partners (Kansas City Symphony, The Louisville Orchestra, Quad City Symphony Orchestra Association, Reno Chamber Orchestra, and Vermont Symphony Orchestra), we are thrilled with the additions of the Rogue Valley Symphony and Westchester Philharmonic Orchestra. We are still looking for one more orchestra to fill out the eight partner roster. If you are interested, please contact Alan Jordan at “email@example.com.”
The premiere performance is scheduled for Saturday, March 19, 2016 at the Flynn Center in Burlington, VT with a second performance planned Sunday, March 20, 2016. The Kansas City Symphony performances are scheduled for April 8-10, 2016. Other partners’ performances will be announced soon.
More updates to come soon—stay tuned!
Our New Concerto
When I was approached to write a new violin concerto for Bella Hristova, I was thrilled at the idea of collaborating with this incredible artist whom I know rather well. But what can I say about her that hasn’t been said by people everywhere? The New York Times talks about Bella’s “lovely…soaring tone,” and calls her (just straight up) “the excellent Bella Hristova.” The Strad says it was “particularly struck by her commanding stage presence.” The Washington Post says she is a “player of impressive power and control.” I personally think she’s not only one of the great young violinists in the world, but one of the great violinists in the world of any age. I know that being engaged to someone might suggest that I’m biased (thus the strategy of leading off with what other people have had to say), but I hold my opinion as self-evident. Go have a listen.
Alan Jordan, the executive director of the Vermont Symphony, proposed the idea to me to write a concerto for Bella in honor of us getting married, and as a natural artistic partnership between two individuals who had worked separately many times with the VSO before. I had a wonderful residency with the VSO from 2004-2008 funded by what was then “Meet the Composer,” and this felt like a great new link to a Vermont audience community that I feel so close to already. Bella has been a soloist with the VSO many times, and we both owe so much to music director Jaime Laredo who has been an impossibly kind mentor and friend. We’ve come to realize that in music (and probably everything else!) strong relationships make strong results, and we have had an amazing relationship with the Vermont community.
But Alan being a bigger thinker wanted to expand that community for this project, so he approached colleagues in other orchestras where there were appropriate connections. He reached out to Kansas City, Louisville, Quad City, Reno, and Westchester symphonies to see if they had interest, and we got positive responses from everyone. The plan was to build a consortium of orchestras to commission and present the piece. They then applied to New Music USA for further support.
To my great surprise and delight (and general “yeehaw!”) we got funding from New Music USA. There were nearly twelve hundred applicants, and only 2% of them received support. That number is humbling, to say the least, and if anything it’s a great motivation to make this project the very, very best it can be.
The project is a new violin concerto to be written by me for Bella, celebrating these relationships–and our relationship–and to use the piece to build bridges between these many audience communities, connecting to them through meaningful personal engagement, and sharing all of our collective stories with each other closely and remotely. Bella and I have already focused a lot on engaging audiences and will always work to cultivate new ones in the project-based careers we are so fortunate share. We are looking forward to all of it–getting to know people from the orchestras, audience, and communities who are a part of this consortium, and introducing them to this new and living music.
It’s funny how, as a composer, you carry these ideas around in your head as if they’re stored like little folders in a file cabinet. Four years ago, soon after Bella and I began as a couple, I started imagining what a concerto for her might sound like. I thought about her explosive playing, how it could launch out of an explosive sonority in the orchestra to start the piece. I thought about the ending (will it be three movements? will it have movements?) and how that can highlight her extraordinary technique with flashing bow strokes and the electrical energy of her concerto playing. There are definitely new ideas and sounds swimming around in my inner ear…thinking about a new pieces is one of the sweetest times, but then you have to get down to the long and (wonderfully) challenging process of writing.
So I guess it’s time to open those folders…
A consortium of orchestras, led by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, will commission David Ludwig to compose his first violin concerto for 2013 Avery Fisher Career Grant winner Bella Hristova, in celebration of their marriage. The premiere of the full-length (c. 25′) concerto will take place in Burlington, Vermont, during the 2015/2016 season, with subsequent performances with the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra (MO), Louisville Orchestra (KY), Quad Cities Symphony Orchestra (IA), and Reno Chamber Orchestra (NV). In addition to presenting at least one performance, each orchestra will plan social and educational outreach activities for both Mr. Ludwig and Ms. Hristova surrounding the concert(s). Radio broadcasts are also planned in Vermont and other cities.
David Ludwig’s choral work, “The New Colossus,” was selected to open the private prayer service for President Obama and his cabinet at his second inauguration. This season also features a tour with The East Coast Chamber Orchestra (Virtuosity), a new work for Benjamin Beilman commissioned by Carnegie Hall (Swan Song), and the premiere of his bassoon concerto (Pictures from the Floating World), commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Ludwig has received commissions and performances from artists and ensembles, including eighth blackbird, National Symphony, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and Dresden Music Festival with Robert Spano conducting. Recent commissions include Lunaire Variations for Jonathan Biss, Five Ladino Songs for Lara St. John, Josquin Microludes for the PRISM Saxophone Quartet, and Seasons Lost for Jennifer Koh and Jaime Laredo. Ludwig is the grandson of pianist Rudolf Serkin and great-grandson of violinist Adolf Busch. His teachers include John Corigliano, Richard Danielpour, Jennifer Higdon, Richard Hoffmann, and Ned Rorem. He holds degrees from Oberlin, The Manhattan School, Curtis Institute, Juilliard School, and a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. Ludwig is on the composition faculty of the Curtis Institute where he serves as the Dean of Artistic Programs and director of the Curtis 20/21 Contemporary Music Ensemble.
As the recipient of two previous Meet The Composer residency grants, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra is well-prepared to successfully administer the current grant and to coordinate the activities of the consortium members. This grant will assist in expanding David Ludwig’s oeuvre of compositions for soloist(s) and large ensemble, with multiple performance opportunities across the country.
This project will take place during the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 concert seasons, beginning September 1, 2015 and concluding no later than August 31, 2017. Additional consortium members are possible.
Jaime Laredo, vln./Sharon Robinson, vcl./Sarah Hicks, cond./VT Sym. Orch. Rec. 1/26/09, Paramount Theatre, Rutland, VT (for Bridge 9354).
This movement imagines one of the most intense evenings in mythology: the night before Odysseus leaves the goddess Calypso. After saving him, Calypso compels Odysseus to be her partner for a decade, but he still desires to return home. Calypso finally relents. The soloists play together for most of the movement, writhing amidst a changing background of traditional sounds of dance and moments of chaos.
Start and End Dates
09/01/2015 — 12/31/2016