Commissioned by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for soloist Angela Fuller-Heyde. Duration ca. 23 minutes. Premiered on May 13, 2021 with Gemma New conducting. Score and parts are currently being edited and will be available by Fall of 2021.
I first met Angie Fuller-Heyde at the 2016 Grand Teton Music Festival when that festival’s orchestra, under the direction of Donald Runnicles, gave the American premiere of my Ramal for orchestra. Angie was the principal violinist at that performance, and I recalled being very taken by her interpretation of a little violin solo in that work. When I was invited back to GTMF in 2018, with a newly completed string quartet, I found, to my delight, that Angie would be playing first violin. Again, I was captivated by her powerful and heartfelt performance along with those of her GTMF quartet colleagues. So, when the opportunity to compose a concerto for Angie and her colleagues at the Dallas Symphony, I jumped at it.
I completed composing this concerto in early June of 2020 having begun it in November of 2019. The second movement was composed first, followed by the third, and the first movement was composed last. I began with the second, slow movement because, at the time, I had been recovering from a very painful back injury and I was dealing with the emotions that might be typical of such an injury; doubt, recognition of the frailty of our bodies, and some depression. The resulting music reflects the ups and downs of that period. Little did I know that my own personal journey would later reflect, and be exponentially amplified by the upheaval of 2020. The solo violin cadenza in the second movement was conceived of as a series of dialogues between Angie and her colleagues in the wood wind section. Perhaps this is a reflection on how much one needs community in both ordinary and extraordinary times. The third movement is a tightly structured movement, is a series of variations inspired by a 6/8 rhythmic cycle found in Classical Arab Near Eastern music called Darj. The taught structuring of this movement was done as a way to feel some sense of control over something in my life during a very unstable time. The ending of the work was written during the seemingly unending reports about the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of the police, and private citizens: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and too many others. One cannot help but to reflect on these specific incidents and the stubbornly enduring factors that lead to them. The first movement, perhaps, reflected on the rapid and overwhelming spread of COVID throughout the world in 2020. The flurry of activity in the opening motif, which returns again three times, is a reflection of this. This motif returns at the end, finally overwhelming the soloist. The middle section of this movement was inspired by moments in the Bach violin concerto in E minor, where both soloists and the strings join together in unison passages.
My Violin Concerto No. 1, which premiered in March of 2019 in Berlin, and was composed for soloist Michael Barenboim and the Boulez Ensemble, is a much more outward looking work, and in many ways, more celebratory. This new concerto is more inward looking and more muted in its optimism, though not devoid of it. None of the three movements of my Violin Concerto No. 2 have titles, but each expresses deeply felt emotions which I am still not quite able to put into words. The sub-title, with might and main, which was suggested by my colleague, friend and mentor at Tufts University, the composer & pianist John McDonald, is a tautological phrase which means ‘with great vigor’ or ‘with as much force as possible.’ One example of the use of this phrase that I found was, “They shouted with might and main but nobody came to rescue them.”
Kareem Roustom, April 6, 2021