This weekend, composer Conrad Tao's violin concerto will receive its premiere performance by VC Artist Stefan Jackiw at the Atlanta Symphony Hall — alongside Strauss' "Don Juan" and "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks" and Alvin Singleton's "Different River."
A pianist as well as a composer, at just 27 years old, Tao's first large-scale orchestral work "Everything Must Go" was premiered by the New York Philharmonic in 2018.
His new violin concerto will not be the first time Tao and Jackiw have worked together. Tao already wrote a piece, especially for Jackiw, entitled "all I had forgotten or tried to," which the pair performed in a duo recital earlier this year. Their performing relationship has given Tao an intimate understanding of Jackiw's approach to music, which exerted considerable influence on the genesis of the new concerto.
"Ultimately it came down to thinking what I wanted to hear from Stefan," Tao said. "That’s always motivated me, knowing [his] playing as well as I do, what can I get that I don’t usually hear, aspects of his playing that I want to get inside of."
Tao says that the concerto also reflects on the experience of being isolated during the pandemic, with all social interaction shifted online.
"Like many, I found calm in time spent outdoors," he notes. "Focusing on the ebb and flow of the Hudson River, listening intently to traffic noise and leaves commingling in the wind, finding a shore of mysteriously stacked stones while walking north along the water — it all kept me in the present, in my body, and in my life."
VC Artist Stefan Jackiw was recently appointed to the violin faculty of the Mannes School of Music in New York. He has made solo debuts with the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, among others.
“There’s a lot of humor, in the outer movements, and Conrad describes parts of it as the violin surfing through the orchestra,” said Jackiw of the new piece. “As a violinist, structure isn’t the first thing I’m drawn to. But I was struck by how structurally rigorous it is, especially the first movement. Once that’s pointed out to me, as a performer, that makes the work easier to digest.”
You can purchase tickets from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's website.