05 Feb 2013

Stravinsky – Violin Concerto in D Major

3 bassoons (3rd doubles contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, strings.

Duration: 22 minutes in four movements.

THE COMPOSER – IGOR STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) – Much of Stravinsky’s time during the busy Parisian interwar years was spent on the road and progress on various commissions was often at the mercy of his frequent concert tours outside of France. It was on one such trip that Stravinsky met violinist Samuel Dushkin at the home of his German publisher Willy Strecker, who suggested a concerto collaboration between the two men. Uncharacteristically, the composer hesitated.  

THE MUSIC – Stravinsky was never less than fully self-assured as an artist so it can be hard to accept the notion of his flinching, even slightly, before a challenge. The truth is that the delay in his initial enthusiasm was less a flinch than a pause, a moment to assess whether or not he could do the violin the same justice he had previously done his native instrument, the piano. It wouldn’t take much to convince him that he could. One dose of solicited advice from composer colleague Paul Hindemith (who was a professional violist as well) and Stravinsky’s mind was set. The Violin Concerto was commissioned by American businessman and diplomat Blair Fairchild in 1931 and with the funding in place, composer and soloist got quickly to work. The hours they spent in intense consultation yielded not only a first class concerto but a lasting friendship as well. Dushkin later recalled the moment Stravinsky revealed the famous “passport” chord to him. They were at lunch when Stravinsky jotted down the odd chord and asked Dushkin if it could be played on the violin. He said “no.” Stravinsky was very disappointed but Dushkin (to his credit and our great fortune) tried the chord when he got home and found it was actually possible. He called Stravinsky right away. Months later, Dushkin recognized the chord as the opening declaration (the “passport” in Stravinsky’s words) of each of the concerto’s four movements.    

THE WORLD – The Central China (Yellow River) Floods occurred in 1931 and still rank among the deadliest natural disasters in history. 1931 was also the year Clyde Edward Panghorn and Hugh Herndon completed the first trans-Pacific flight in just over 41 hours.

THE CONNECTION – This performance marks the 4th time the Stravinsky Violin Concerto has been programmed by the Utah Symphony. The last time was in 2002 with Cho-Liang Lin as soloist.