Concerto for Viola and Orchestra

Samuel Adler

Duration: 00:20:00
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

The Concerto for Viola and Orchestra was begun in December 1998 and completed in February 1999 on a commission from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for its principal violist Randolph Kelly. This is the tenth concerto I have composed, and each of them is a very different entity since each solo instrument suggests a certain ?personality? to me. The viola has a very special significance in my life since it was my major performing instrument in both chamber music situations as well as in the orchestra. To me, the major attribute of the viola is its ability to convey a most beautiful lyricism. Certainly it can do all the other exploits of the violin and cello, but its very volatile lyric sound has always had a great appeal for me. Of course in this work, besides lyric lines, the soloist is asked to perform all kinds of other gestures and to explore the upper as well as the lower extremes of the viola?s range.

The Concerto is in three movements and is about twenty minutes in length.

I. Gently flowing?The first movement begins with a song-like theme played by the solo viola to a sparse accompaniment, first by the upper strings with pizzicato cellos and basses, then continued by the winds and muted trumpets. This main theme is quite a lengthy one and is repeated and varied several times, finally reaching a climax that leads to a more agitated section. This second portion of the movement is characterized by snappy grace notes and acts as a development section, since the opening theme constantly tries to intrude and develop itself. The lyric principal theme wins out and returns again, accompanied as before by shimmering strings and with some hint of the middle section material this time trying to intrude on its serenity. The movement, however, comes to a quiet, almost ethereal close.

II. Slowly and freely?The second movement is a meditation beginning with a short viola cadenza that repeats twice toward the end of the movement. In between the cadenzas, both the orchestra as well as the soloist develop several pastoral-like melodies that in many ways resemble the two themes of the first movement, but in this calm setting emphasize a striving for inner peace. This is finally achieved by a coda settling on a soft Ab minor chord in first inversion.

III. With verve and drive throughout?To me, music is the translation of the energy a composer feels stemming from the time in which he/she lives. I feel a tremendous invigorating energy in our world today and have, as in this movement, tried to capture its strength and its restlessness. From the very beginning the music explodes and the opening phrase that the viola plays is the catalyst that in one form or another runs all the way through and invites contrasting themes after each time it appears. This gesture is not a melody but rather a rhythmic fragment that is recognizable throughout the movement. The soloist here acts as a protagonist and the orchestra as the antagonist, constantly in dialogue and bringing the work to an excited close. It should be noted that some of the contrasting melodies throughout the last movement recall themes of the first movement once again. In other words this Concerto is quite cyclical in construction.

Scores & Parts

Concerto - Solo Part with Piano Reduction

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Composition Date 1999
Orchestration Solo Vla.; 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 2 - 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 2Perc. Str.
Premiere Premiered by Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Randolph Kelly, soloist, October 6, 2000.


I. Gently flowing
II. Slowly and freely
III. With verve and drive throughout

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