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.