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Clavier concerto BWV1056 - 2nd movement : arranged, roughly, for solo violin and string orchestra

by Carl Vine (2010)

Work Overview

One of the favourite films of my student years was "Slaughterhouse Five" (1972) directed by George Roy Hill, who was more famous for off-beat comedies like "The World According to Garp", "The Sting", and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". "Slaughterhouse" was a whacky and intriguing Sci-Fi/War movie featuring music, strangely enough, completely compiled by Glenn Gould.

The scene behind the opening credits remains vividly implanted in my mind. A mysterious dark-cloaked figure struggles through vast fields of deep pure-white snow. The only noise on the soundtrack is Glenn Gould playing the slow movement of Bach's fifth Klavier Concerto (BWV1056). I had never heard this music before, and it left an indelible impression.

In creating a new arrangement of the work, particularly one that used neither the original harpsichord nor Glenn's instrument of choice, I wasn't concerned about evoking the film, only about revelling in the searing beauty of the music. It is a mark of Bach's brilliance that he ever thought the third, long-sustained note of the melody, would make sense on the short-lived resonance of a harpsichord. Somehow, magically, it does, but giving that melody to violin releases the sustain of that pitch from the imaginary realm into firm reality. Like most Bach, the exact instrument playing at any moment is rarely as important as the melodic shape that it describes.

I am no specialist in Baroque music, and have made no attempt at, or gesture towards, authenticity of any form. This is a simple homage to Bach's inimitable genius, and a token of my eternal love for this massive, tiny composition.

Work Details

Year: 2010

Instrumentation: Solo violin, strings.

Duration: 5 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — demanding solo part and ensemble coordination

Commission note: Commissioned by Gidon Kremer for performance by Kremerata Baltica.

First performance: by Gidon Kremer, Kremerata Baltica — 2010.


Performances of this work

2010: featuring Gidon Kremer, Kremerata Baltica.

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