I have already posted two discs of Eric Ewazen's music for Brass, so now let us explore his gorgeous and lush orchestral music; all three works on this disc are of great beauty, entirely accessible, and a feast for anyone who likes their "contemporary" music served up free from dissonance, full of fresh ideas and unabashedly tonal. Ewazen's music can often be described as conservative in the very best sense; much of his orchestral output could have very well been written 60 plus years ago (one can be reminded of the lyricism found in certain Vaughan Williams, in fact VW's Oboe Concerto would be almost too obvious a choice to program or record alongside Ewazen's own "Down A River Of Time" for Oboe and Strings...an overload of heavenly noise perhaps! And the third movement of the "Sinfonia for Strings" would instantly set the toes of Holst, Bridge or Warlock tapping I would imagine..) but that hardly matters as Ewazen always has a lot to say. Indeed, the moment the Violin Concerto begins (and intoxicates) one might find that the territory is a familiar one; but it's also new, full of bracing energy and radiance. It's music clearly full of heart...which in turn, ensures it's timelessness..
Here are the booklet notes by Eric Ewazen:
As a member of the faculty of The Juilliard School for over 25 years, I was delighted to find out that so many of my former students from my Literature and Materials of Music classes play in the world-class International Sejong Soloists. I have found them to be a group of amazing musicians. Their artistic director, Hyo Kang, one of the truly inspired violinists and violin teachers of our time is also a great friend. It has been a joy working with this extraordinary ensemble in the creation of this CD.
Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra
Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra was commissioned by the St. Lukes Chamber Ensemble of New York City and premiered by them with soloist Krista Feeney in May, 2000 during my tenure as their composer-in-residence. It is a large-scaled three-movement work exploring the incredible range of expressive possibilities and colors inherent in the violin. The first movement has a crackling energy, with dynamic, sweeping gestures in both the solo part and the accompanying string orchestra. Dramatic, rhapsodic motives are tossed back and forth and agitated accents permeate the movement. The energy creates a non-stop momentum through to the final chords, although there are moments of playfulness which contrast the more aggressive main themes. The second movement is a plaintive adagio, with the solo violin singing a somber, lyrical line. Contemplative and melancholy, this melody becomes the basis for a variation form in which it becomes ever more embellished and dramatic. A climactic middle section and quasi-cadenza lead to a final whispered statement of the opening theme. The final movement has a joyful energy. Contrasting the first two movements with their predominantly minor modes, the last movement is primarily sunny and bright with major modes and themes which skip and dance. I am delighted with Adele Anthony's bouyant interpretation of the concerto and grateful to her for introducing it to you.
Down a River of Time
Down a River of Time, a concerto for oboe and string orchestra, was a work which percolated for several years before being composed and premiered by the wonderful oboist and my dear friend, Linda Strommen with the American Sinfonietta, conducted by Michael Palmer at the Bellingham Summer Music Festival in Washington State in August, 1999. It was written at the suggestion of Linda, who commissioned the piece as a memorial tribute to her father. Having also recently lost my father, this piece became a very personal meditation on life and death. On Christmas Day, 1997, the day my father died in Cleveland, a beautiful essay coincidentally appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer by Richard Feagler in which he told poignant, funny and heartfelt stories of his relatives and parents — long since gone. Near the end of this essay, titled “Christmas Past Comes Alive at Aunt Ida's,” he describes these beloved souls “Moving, though they can't feel the current, down a river of time.” This became the title of the Concerto, a work which contemplates this inexorable rushing river. The first movement portrays that river of time with its ebbs and flows, hopes and dreams. The second movement portrays emotions felt during times of loss — powerful feelings running the gamut from sorrow to resignation to tenderness and peace at the remembrance of happier distant times. In the final movement, those happier memories flood the music, as feelings of strength and determination supercede all else, and the work comes to its virtuosic conclusion with a joyful intensity.
Sinfonia for Strings
Sinfonia for Strings is a rich and resonant celebration of the world of string orchestra sonorities. Capable of both great virtuosity and smooth-as-glass legato lyricism, the string orchestra provides the composer with a world of colors and varied musical emotions. The first movement is gutsy and rhythmic, with exciting moments of driving energy, syncopation and sonorous, ringing chords. The second movement, built on a melody which is soft and delicate, builds to a heroic climax, returning to the gentle and understated main theme at the end. The final movement opens with rousing and playful themes which pave the way for a joyful fugue, and a heroic finale.
1. Concerto for violin & string orchestra: Allegro con brio
2. Concerto for violin & string orchestra: Andante Sostenuto
3. Concerto for violin & string orchestra: Allegro Molto
4. Down a River of Time, concerto for oboe & string orchestra: ...past hopes and dreams
5. Down a River of Time, concerto for oboe & string orchestra: ...and sorrows
6. Down a River of Time, concerto for oboe & string orchestra: ...and memories of tomorrow
7. Sinfonia for strings: Allegro Maestoso
8. Sinfonia for strings: Andante teneremente
9. Sinfonia for strings: Allegro molto