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Concerto for Violin and Chamber Orchestra
Instrumentation: solo violin, 1 cl, 1 bsn, 1 hn, timpani, strings
World Premiere: February 4, 2023
I. I Saw A Stranger
III. Life After Death
Swept Away is dedicated to the memory of my father, Phillip Wang, who passed away on May 8, 2020 after a ten-month battle with a rare form of liver cancer. When considering how I could honor his memory, it seemed fitting that it would be through the medium of a violin concerto, a genre that encapsulates the boldness and bravery that so embodied my father. Composing this work has been a deeply personal, and at times, incredibly painful experience; however, there is no denying that it has also been monumentally therapeutic in helping me work through my emotional journey since his passing. At its essence, this concerto tells a story: what it feels like to lose someone you love, and the complex ways that we carry on in the aftermath of tragedy.
The concerto revolves around a central theme that represents my father. The first movement is a grim depiction of him losing the battle against cancer. The title, I Saw a Stranger, describes what it felt like to see him in his final hour, so unlike himself, like someone I didn’t even know. Fragments of his theme can be heard, but only in highly distorted and unpleasant ways. The timpani represents his slowing heartbeat. Once it completely stops, there is a horrifying chord that reflects my terror in the moment, which disintegrates into the landscape of the second movement. Hollow depicts the numbness that I felt for months after his passing. The desolate landscape is punctured with moments of extreme emotion, which are quickly suppressed— my coping mechanism. The substantial cadenza depicts a moment where the emotions almost escape. The third and final movement, Life After Death, opens up sonically and musically, representing both his memory living on and my personal experience with going out into the world again. The story moves from darkness to light, sadness to hope, solitude to friendship, and pain to peace. We finally hear his theme in its entirety, which gradually opens, reaching constantly upwards, towards the light. While there is still an underpinning of sadness, there is also hope.
Swept Away is dedicated to anyone who has had their lives “swept away” by cancer: the victims themselves and their loved ones whose lives will never be the same. When we lose someone, we never go back to normal, but we find hope and joy in carrying them with us for the rest of our lives. If this is you, I hope in this concerto you will find beauty, comfort, and love.
Commissioned by the Chamber Orchestra of Pittsburgh
Instrumentation: violin, cello
World Premiere: February 25, 2021
Volt is dedicated to my longtime friend, Evan Kahn, who joined me on cello for the premiere of this piece. When we were roommates at Carnegie Mellon University, we invented a near-complete tone row based on a combination of half steps and tritones, which serves as the basis for Volt. (F-E-B♭-A-E♭-D-A♭-G-D♭-C) This particular combination of notes is especially appealing because, as string players will attest, it is quite comfortable to play when passed from violin to cello. This pattern is utilized in several ways throughout Volt, opening with a slow reveal of the first four notes and eventually ending with a jumbled cascade containing the entire sequence.
Evan and I have played countless concerts together, and one thing that has always stood out to me about our chemistry on stage is the electric, wild energy that we bring out in each other. The style of this short duet is meant to evoke that electricity and is tailored to both of our individualistic tendencies as players—Evan, as a nimble and vivacious cellist, and myself, as a violinist who thrives in fast-paced, rhythmically driven music.
Commissioned by the Palo Alto Philharmonic and Music Director Lara Webber.