Jump to content
Jared Steven Destro

Viola Concerto in A major - Traveller

Recommended Posts

This is a piece of which I am very proud. In part, it is dedicated to the city in which I am currently staying -- Prague. This is more than likely my most complex work (structurally), and I hope to use this piece as a learning experience. Here, the viola acts as the leader of the orchestra, which experiences a tremendous journey that spans more than 30 minutes in a contiguous manner. I have included an analysis and I hope that you enjoy!

PDF
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm sure I'm not the only person who has enjoyed listening to/score reading this piece, but was too intimidated by its length to comment. I didn't get through the whole thing due to time constraints, but here are my thoughts so far:

It's quite an accomplishment. The balance between traditional tonality and recurring interval patterns is effective, and gives the piece a unique, consistent sound even when you're exploring all these different styles.

The orchestration is also well done--you get a lot of colours and textures out of a fairly small group. And the scoring mostly looks nicely balanced--I think the MIDI gives a fairly accurate idea of of the textural balance (if not the blend or expressiveness) of a live performance.

I think the piece's greatest strength might also be its greatest weakness: your transitions are lovely, and feel just right in their small-scale context. But on the large scale, I felt like there were too many of them. After the first few pages, you seldom go more than 5 or 6 measures without a fairly major change in texture and rhythmic surface. On the small scale, this fits your program nicely: the viola as a traveler guiding us through different (textural) areas. But after a while, this makes the form hard to follow--there aren't enough big arrivals or extended ideas (something that feels like the "meat" of the movement or section, if that makes sense) to contrast the almost constant transitions. This could be remedied with just the occasional longer section with an extended rhythmic ostinato or stable harmonic rhythm, among other things.

Really, though, this piece is full of wonderful ideas. I'm looking forward to what you come up with next.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/12/2018 at 10:43 PM, NRKulus said:

I'm sure I'm not the only person who has enjoyed listening to/score reading this piece, but was too intimidated by its length to comment. I didn't get through the whole thing due to time constraints, but here are my thoughts so far:

It's quite an accomplishment. The balance between traditional tonality and recurring interval patterns is effective, and gives the piece a unique, consistent sound even when you're exploring all these different styles.

The orchestration is also well done--you get a lot of colours and textures out of a fairly small group. And the scoring mostly looks nicely balanced--I think the MIDI gives a fairly accurate idea of of the textural balance (if not the blend or expressiveness) of a live performance.

I think the piece's greatest strength might also be its greatest weakness: your transitions are lovely, and feel just right in their small-scale context. But on the large scale, I felt like there were too many of them. After the first few pages, you seldom go more than 5 or 6 measures without a fairly major change in texture and rhythmic surface. On the small scale, this fits your program nicely: the viola as a traveler guiding us through different (textural) areas. But after a while, this makes the form hard to follow--there aren't enough big arrivals or extended ideas (something that feels like the "meat" of the movement or section, if that makes sense) to contrast the almost constant transitions. This could be remedied with just the occasional longer section with an extended rhythmic ostinato or stable harmonic rhythm, among other things.

Really, though, this piece is full of wonderful ideas. I'm looking forward to what you come up with next.

 

You make a good point; this was actually something with which I was battling while I was composing it, but I liked the challenge. I am already making some plans for another big project like this, but it'll probably take some time (I have been a little exhausted with writing and travelling). And, yes -- definitely the length is a bit of a factor in the lack of feedback (I don't blame it if people just sort of skim through, honestly -- this is why I try my best to make the recording as enjoyable as possible), but I really appreciate that you took the time to stick with it and comment. Thanks! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a masterpiece.  I enjoyed it immensely - as a music-lover, as a composer, and as a violist.  And as a violist, I want to thank you sincerely.  There are too few concerti of this quality available to us.  This spurs me on to complete my own concerto, which has been wanting a final movement for years now!   

I must compliment you on the very reasonable forces you have called for in your orchestra, to say nothing of the beautiful and skillful way you've handled them.  Very much more, and the viola would be drowned out.  There are times when even so, the orchestration is a little thick, but I want to believe that a sensitive ensemble will scale back and give the viola some room.  One of the problems with the viola is that its body is considerably too small for its range, but if it were any larger, it would be physically unplayable, hence we have to accept that the viola will always have a smaller sound than we would like.  In a way, this reads almost like a concerto for chamber orchestra that just happens to feature the viola, the orchestral writing is so good.    

I somehow doubt you're a string player.  Some of what you've asked for from your soloist, though not theoretically impossible, is almost beyond the pale.  Overall, the almost unbelievable technical difficulty of what you've written puts this piece beyond the reach of any but the very best players in the entire world, and that should be a concern for you.  I would not inhibit your creative vision for the world, but if you ever want to get this piece played, I would earnestly suggest to you that you consult the very best violist you can find and find out what s/he thinks, and be ready to do some editing.  You may be surprised and even disappointed, but at least you'll know what's realistic if you ever want to hear a performance of this fine piece of music.  I'm a good violist, but not a great one; but were I five times the player I am, I wouldn't touch this piece.  I couldn't begin to do it justice.  Seriously, seek out a really, really good violist and consult.  I don't really want to say this, but another of the difficulties of writing for the viola as soloist is that, compared to the violin and the 'cello, relatively little is ever expected of violists, and as a result there are very few of us who have the technical mastery necessary to tackle a piece like this.  This may be an unpopular thing to say, but it's the truth.  

Now, I have to take you to task just a little regarding your multiple stops.  There may have been others that flew by too quickly and I missed, but in the cadenza, I noticed three triple stops that were literally impossible to play on the instrument; the problem with them is that you've called for two notes that have to be played on the same string at the same time.  They are in measures 694, 701, and 706.  You'll want to rewrite the triple stops in those measures, unfortunately, or leave off the top notes in each and make them a double stop; if you don't, it will just look like you don't know what you're doing, and this work is simply too good for that assessment.  Give those measures a look and see what else you can come up with that will work.  

Once again, my sincerest compliments, and my thanks for taking me on a musical journey worth every moment of my time, and which I won't soon forget.     

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, J. Lee Graham said:

This is a masterpiece.  I enjoyed it immensely - as a music-lover, as a composer, and as a violist.  And as a violist, I want to thank you sincerely.  There are too few concerti of this quality available to us.  This spurs me on to complete my own concerto, which has been wanting a final movement for years now!   

I must compliment you on the very reasonable forces you have called for in your orchestra, to say nothing of the beautiful and skillful way you've handled them.  Very much more, and the viola would be drowned out.  There are times when even so, the orchestration is a little thick, but I want to believe that a sensitive ensemble will scale back and give the viola some room.  One of the problems with the viola is that its body is considerably too small for its range, but if it were any larger, it would be physically unplayable, hence we have to accept that the viola will always have a smaller sound than we would like.  In a way, this reads almost like a concerto for chamber orchestra that just happens to feature the viola, the orchestral writing is so good.    

I somehow doubt you're a string player.  Some of what you've asked for from your soloist, though not theoretically impossible, is almost beyond the pale.  Overall, the almost unbelievable technical difficulty of what you've written puts this piece beyond the reach of any but the very best players in the entire world, and that should be a concern for you.  I would not inhibit your creative vision for the world, but if you ever want to get this piece played, I would earnestly suggest to you that you consult the very best violist you can find and find out what s/he thinks, and be ready to do some editing.  You may be surprised and even disappointed, but at least you'll know what's realistic if you ever want to hear a performance of this fine piece of music.  I'm a good violist, but not a great one; but were I five times the player I am, I wouldn't touch this piece.  I couldn't begin to do it justice.  Seriously, seek out a really, really good violist and consult.  I don't really want to say this, but another of the difficulties of writing for the viola as soloist is that, compared to the violin and the 'cello, relatively little is ever expected of violists, and as a result there are very few of us who have the technical mastery necessary to tackle a piece like this.  This may be an unpopular thing to say, but it's the truth.  

Now, I have to take you to task just a little regarding your multiple stops.  There may have been others that flew by too quickly and I missed, but in the cadenza, I noticed three triple stops that were literally impossible to play on the instrument; the problem with them is that you've called for two notes that have to be played on the same string at the same time.  They are in measures 694, 701, and 706.  You'll want to rewrite the triple stops in those measures, unfortunately, or leave off the top notes in each and make them a double stop; if you don't, it will just look like you don't know what you're doing, and this work is simply too good for that assessment.  Give those measures a look and see what else you can come up with that will work.  

Once again, my sincerest compliments, and my thanks for taking me on a musical journey worth every moment of my time, and which I won't soon forget.     

 

I am very grateful for your comment, thank you; I am glad you enjoyed it and it helped spur you. You are quite right that I am not a string player, so you really gave some insight and remind me to be a little more careful -- you get in such a rush that your ideas really take over. While I doubt the piece will ever be truly taken up, if ever it does, my plan really always is to follow the advice of the player and make what adjustments I can. I had the opportunity to do just this in a sight-reading, and hearing what the players had to say was really rather exciting -- I enjoyed the challenge. With that said, I could still use a bit more caution ahead of time, regardless of instrument. Thanks again, I'll come back to this one for sure.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can only echo the comments of J Lee Graham, particularly your highly skilled handling of the smaller resources. A very pleasant work to listen to.  The scoring is most delicate in places. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...