The Art of Storytelling – The Warrior Violinist
Music from Wyastone – Studio Concert Series
About this Concert
Inspired by an Egyptian folk tale and the legend engraved on a pink granite slab between the paws of the Sphinx, ‘The Warrior Violinist’ is a cautionary parable about yearning to be what one is not. The story is about a young lad who plays the violin with an all-consuming passion and then finds another love – the princess of the kingdom.
ESO’s ‘Art of Storytelling’ project presents world premiere recordings and broadcasts of five exceptional works for narrator and orchestra. From the cheeky humour of the Brothers’ Grimm to the touching tale of Hans Christian Andersen’s Ugly Duckling, and from the Jewish humour of Lubin from Chelm to the ancient Egyptian tale of The Warrior Violinist, this is classic family entertainment for the modern age at its finest, a powerful synthesis of great literature and great music.
About the Piece - The Warrior Violinist
Inspired by an Egyptian folk tale and the legend engraved on a pink granite slab between the paws of the Sphinx “The Warrior Violinist” is a cautionary parable about yearning to be what one is not. The story is about a young lad who plays the violin with an all-consuming passion and then finds another love – the princess of the kingdom.
In 2012 David Yang and his storytelling music troupe Auricolae asked me to write The Warrior Violinist for violin, cello and narrator. Kenneth Woods, who conducts the present performance, played the cello part with Auricolae in a performance at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and on the subsequent recording. A version in Spanish, El Violinista guerrero was performed at the Biennial Visual Arts and Music Festival in Havana, Cuba in 2015.
In the summer of 2020, when the concert halls had closed because of the covid pandemic, Ken asked me to prepare a version for this recording project. The challenging and disheartening covid circumstances made re-composing the piece for Ken and my ESO colleagues an especially gratifying experience. In addition to fleshing out harmonies, adding contrapuntal lines, and creating fuller and richer orchestral sonorities, I was able to expand the presence of the solo violin so it could more actively fulfil its role as the protagonist of the story.
— Note by Jay Reise
About the Narrator - Davood Ghadami
About the Composer - Jay Reise
Award-winning composer Jay Reise wrote the music and libretto for his opera Rasputin which was commissioned by the late Beverly Sills and premiered by the New York City Opera in 1988.
The work was described in The Washington Times as “a spellbinding, challenging and
profoundly beautiful creation.” Rasputin was given its Russian premiere in in 2008 by the
Helikon Opera and has been in repertory since then with further performances in Estonia (Saaremaa Opera Festival) and Paris (Opéra de Massy). In November 2017, it was presented in Moscow as part of the commemoration marking the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.
Recent performances of Reise’s chamber music have taken place in Cuba and on tour in the Middle East. He is currently working on an opera Al Capone and Family based on the career and family life of the notorious gangster.
Reise’s music has been performed extensively in the United States and abroad. His Symphony II was performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1983, and in 1997 the Philharmonia Orchestra commissioned and premiered The Selfish Giant, a tone poem based on the Oscar Wilde fairy
tale. Maria Bachmann and Orchestra 2001 premiered and recorded his violin concerto The River Within in 2008. In 2015 his Japanese fairy tale ballet The Gift to Urashima Taro was premiered by Exit Dance at the Newburyport Festival.
Reise’s recordings include The Devil in the Flesh and Other Pieces with pianist Marc-André Hamelin, and a fairy tale The Warrior Violinist performed by Auricolae. Other recordings feature Gregory Fulkerson, Charles Abramovic, Jerome Lowenthal, and the Cassatt Quartet. Reise’s awards and fellowships include the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim, Fromm, and Rockefeller Foundations, and the US-Japan Friendship Commission.
Jay Reise is Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of Pennsylvania. His music is
published by Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, visual artist Cecilia Paredes.
Creating 'The Warrior Violinist' with Davood Ghadami
In conversation with composer Jay Reise
Arcana.fm - 23rd December 2020
Following on from its uproarious version of Lubin from Chelm [*], the English Symphony Orchestra continues its series of pieces for virtual storytelling in the guise of an old Egyptian tale – here given a contemporary twist to result in the ‘morality’ fable The Warrior Violinist.
This is a parable about being careful what one wishes for. It centres on a youth who plays the violin to exclusion of all else, then finds an even greater other love – the Pharaoh’s daughter. Imagining himself inferior, he bids the Sphinx transform him into a great warrior – in which guise he vanquishes Egypt’s enemies. The princess can love only the man she heard playing the violin and when the warrior tries to reclaim his former prowess, he finds himself unable to play – the Sphinx’s warning that no-one can be changed back having proven only too true.
Davood Ghadami is a personable and thoughtful narrator; his understatement enabling one to focus on a musical score that, even more than the previous two in this series, packs a wealth of incident into a through-composed score which is effortlessly sustained over its 18 minutes. A tribute, indeed, to the initiative of Jay Reise in having elaborated a piece written almost a decade ago for this Art of Storytelling series. Not the least of its attractions is the extensive role allotted solo violin, played here by Zoë Beyers with no mean poise and resourcefulness.
The remaining ESO musicians play with skill and sensitivity, while Kenneth Woods ensures clarity of texture even in denser passages. The production should provoke children and adults alike – and, as usual with ESO, a range of sundry material enhances the overall experience.