Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

Dan Welcher

Performing Ensemble: Violin with Orchestra
Publisher: Elkan-Vogel, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

This work is my fourth concerto, preceded by concerti for flute (1973), bassoon (1975) and clarinet (1989). It is intended to be a true vehicle for the soloist; the orchestration is spare whenever the violin is present, and the forms are clear and well-defined. But unlike any of my previous works in this medium, this concerto aims at a lighthearted spirit that is not tart or jazzy. In brief, I aimed to write a work that would stand alongside the first concerto of Prokofiev, the Stravinsky concerto, or the G-major concerto of Mozart: ebullient, sometimes playful, and more charming than profound.

In choosing G major (both the first movement and the last movement end in this key) as a basic key-center, I was keenly aware of its ?humoresque? quality, as exploited by Mahler in his Fourth Symphony, Dvorak in his Eighth (as well as in his own Humoresque), Mozart in his ?Papageno? music and G major Piano Concerto. My music is not diatonic?there is a twelve-note row that binds all three movements---but more often polytonal, with the G-major material being supported by a pentatonic set founded on F#.

The subtitles for the three movements gave me images from which to work. The first movement is called ?Games and Songs?, the second is ?March, Quickstep, and Duel?, and the finale is ?Lullabye and Tarantella.? All are themes from childhood and youth, but they are not programmatic in any sense. There is no real cadenza, except for a link between the first and second movements in which the violin moves from the innocence of children?s games into the slightly more serious world of playing soldier. The final movement has an air of nostalgia, of knowing that innocence is being lost forever, but with the playful spirit still intact.

Formally, the three movements make a balanced whole. The first movement contains four sections in a modified (A-B-C-AB) sonata-allegro structure. A cadenza links the end of this movement to the beginning of the second movement (March), which follows a loosely interpreted march-with-trio format: March - Quickstep (dotted rhythms prevailing) - Duel/Cadenza (a sort of ?trio?, with pairs of snare drums and trumpets) - Retreat (recapitulation). The major/minor key juxtapositions throughout this movement offer a mood that is either sardonic or bluesy (take your pick), but at the climax of the Duel, a Mahlerian theme in D Major appears in mock-grandiose plumage.

The third movement functions as both slow movement and rondo. It begins in B-flat, with a sweet, sad lullabye climbing ever higher in the solo part. At mid-point, a demonic tarantella begins; growing by degrees until the climactic theme from the March movement reappears. This precipitates a transitory passage for the orchestra that fulfills the unfinished prophecy of the second movement in glorious D-major, and eases the shift back to G. The work ends in a transcendent recapitulation of the lullabye, with soft, undulating chords in the upper strings supporting the soloist?s stratospheric song.

The Concerto for Violin and Orchestra was commissioned by the Aspen Music Festival, in honor of Dorothy DeLay?s 75th birthday. It is dedicated to my longtime friend and Chamber Symphony alumnus, Paul Kantor.

Available on Rental

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Aspen Music Festival, in honor of the 75th birthday of Dorothy DeLay.
Composition Date 1993
Duration 25:00
Orchestration Solo Vln.; 2 2 2 2 - 2 2 1 0; Timp. 3Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
Premiere July 2nd, 1993. Paul Kantor, Violin, Aspen Festival Orchestra, conducted by the composer.


I. Games and Songs
II. March, Quickstep, and Duel
III. Lullabye and Tarantella