The Red Violin (1998)
Music for the motion picture WINNER OF THE 1999 ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST SCORE
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see also The Red Violin: Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra, The Red Violin: Chaconne for Violin and Piano, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra ("The Red Violin"), The Red Violin: Suite for Violin and Orchestra,

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Listen to a sound clip

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Recording
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Joshua Bell, violin, with the Philharmonia Orchestra;
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
Sony SK63101 (1998)

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Program note

Composing the music for the film The Red Violin gave me an opportunity to visit my own past, for my father, John Corigliano (I was a “jr.”) was a great solo violinist and the concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic for more than a quarter of a century. My childhood years were punctuated by snatches of the great concertos being practiced by my father, as well as scales and technical exercises he used to keep in shape. Every year, he played a concerto with the Philharmonic (as well as in other venues), and I vividly remember the solo preparation, violin and piano rehearsals, orchestral rehearsals and the final tension-filled concerts (where I would sit backstage in the Carnegie Hall green room, listening to my father over a small speaker breathlessly playing the work in my head and listening to make sure everything came out all right.)

The story of “The Red Violin” is perfect for a lover of the repertoire and the instrument. It spans three centuries in the life of a magnificent but haunted violin in its travels through time and space. But 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 a lyrical yet intense melody representing the violin builder’s doomed wife. Then, from those elements, I wove a series of virtuosic etudes for the solo violin, which followed the instrument from country to county, century to century. I composed these elements before the actual filming, because the actors needed to mime to a recording of these works since their hand motions playing the violin would have to synchronize with the music.

The Red Violin galvanized my energies into producing several further works derived from the film score, including a Chaconne for Violin and Orchetra, a Suite for Violin and Orchestra, a set of "Caprices" for solo violin, and my Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. In these works, as in composing the music for the film, I had the great good fortune to have the sublime young virtuoso, Joshua Bell as the voice of the violin. Josh’s playing resembles that of my father, he is an artist in the grand tradition.

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                     — John Corigliano

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