02 Dec 2019

EDGAR MEYER: Violin Concerto

by Michael Clive

As an esteemed composer and virtuoso classical bassist, Edgar Meyer has carved out a unique niche in the musical world — or perhaps the phrase “musical worlds” would be more appropriate, since his work spans classical music, bluegrass and more. “I’m not crossing over,” he told an interviewer in 1992; “this is simply what I do.”

Meyer’s violin concerto, a commission from Sony Classical, was written in 1999 for Hilary Hahn, to whom it is dedicated. It was premiered and recorded by Ms. Hahn with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra led by Hugh Wolff. In a note for Hahn’s recording of the work, Meyer comments:

I conceived this violin concerto with Hilary Hahn’s singular voice in mind: from the elegiac opening in G-sharp — which over the course of the first ten minutes [the first of the work’s two movements] is gradually transformed to more complicated music by the gravitational pull of E — to the final 16 minutes [the second movement, in which] the transformation continues from serenity to earthiness and the gravitational pull is exerted by the symmetrically opposite C. This concerto was also written to take advantage of Hilary’s considerable technique. In Hilary’s hands, for instance, two passages combining a slow moving line on one string with a more rapidly moving line on another string sound more like violin duets than violin solos, especially the first, heard a few minutes into the second movement.

In the twenty years since the concerto’s premiere, it has become a favorite among violin soloists and audiences alike. The writing demonstrates Meyer’s deep understanding not only of string instruments, but of the entire orchestra.