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John Corigliano / The Red Violin

Rick Rogers Published: November 26, 2012

On this day in classical music: John Corigliano’s “The Red Violin,” a chaconne for violin and orchestra based on themes featured in the 1998 film of the same name, was given its premiere by violinist Joshua Bell and the San Francisco Symphony in 1997. Robert Spano conducted. Listen to Bell perform excerpts from Corigliano’s soundtrack to “The Red Violin.”

John Corigliano
John Corigliano

On this day in the musical theatre: Sandy Wilson’s musical “The Boy Friend” closed on Broadway in 1955 after a 14-month run. The musical’s original 1954 London production ran for 2,078 performances, making it briefly the third-longest running musical in West End history. Its run was soon eclipsed by the musical “Salad Days.” The Broadway production marked Julie Andrews American stage debut. Set in the carefree world of the French Riviera in the Roaring Twenties, “The Boy Friend” is a comic pastiche of 1920s shows. Among its standouts were “Won’t You Charleston With Me?,” “I Could Be Happy With You,” “It’s Never Too Late To Fall In Love” and the lively title number. Listen to “The Riviera” from the original Broadway cast recording.

The Boy Friend - Original Broadway Cast
The Boy Friend - Original Broadway Cast

Musical musings: “The Red Violin: Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra” draws upon music I composed for the film of the same name. The film spans three centuries in the life of a magnificent but haunted violin in its travels through space and time. A story this episodic needed to be tied together with a single musical idea. For this purpose I used the Baroque device of a chaconne: a repeated pattern of chords upon which the music is built. Against the chaconne chords I juxtaposed Anna’s theme, a lyrical yet intense melody representing the violin builder’s doomed wife. From these elements I wove a series of virtuosic etudes for the solo violin, which followed the instrument from country to country, century to century. I composed these elements before the actual filming, because the actors needed to imitate actual performance of the music. Then, while the film itself was shot, I made — from Anna’s theme, the chaconne, and the etudes — this concert work. While I scored the film just for the soloist and string orchestra (to emphasize the “stringness” of the picture), I composed this seventeen-minute concert work for violin and full orchestra. – John Corigiliano in a program note for “The Red Violin”


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