The violin was the first instrument I learned as an eight-year-old boy. My parents had given me one for Christmas and I immediately began lessons. They guided me toward engineering later on, but when the War forced the closing of the engineering school soon after I entered in 1939, I was able to use my musical background to good advantage. The Conservatory remained open, and I applied and was accepted. Thus, music became my profession.
The literature for the violin is so rich that it is extremely difficult to add another work to this wonderful canon. A concerto is traditionally a composition that tests the virtuosity of a soloist. Today’s performers are technically amazing. What was considered difficult 100 years ago (for instance, the Brahms, Sibelius and Dvorak violin concertos) is now played creditably by students; the Berg, Stravinsky, and Bartók concertos, which seemed unplayable fifty years ago, are performed masterfully today. Each period brings new challenges and extends the technical range.
Yet technical challenge should not be the main concern. Ideas and content – sometimes called inspiration – are more important. However, they are more difficult to describe because they are personal matters which composers are often reluctant to discuss. Perhaps it would be more helpful to say a word about some my thoughts at the time I was writing the Violin Concerto.
We live in a world of many societies, but more than ever there is a feeling of aloneness among people (Moderato, ma Deciso – a monologue and recitative). We can see the Earth from a spaceship or another planet, but we have not been able to stop hungry children from dying or destruction of our glorious natural resources (Adagio). And yet we contemplate life’s mystery and beauty, its joy, its lights and darkness, its magnificent colors, like the forests of Douanier Rousseau or the flight of birds painted by Chagall. In these troubled times, we have so much to learn from the majesty of Nature (Allegro giocoso).
It has been an honor to compose music for the consummate violinist Glenn Dicterow and the great New York Philharmonic.