John Corigliano: “I feel at home in Moscow, although I don’t know Russian”
Kultura.RF publishes an interview with the Moscow Philharmonic with an American composer who won an Oscar for the music for the film Red Violin by John Corigliano. In February 2018, Corigliano celebrates its 80th anniversary, and on March 14, an anniversary program will be held in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall. Music critic Ilya Ovchinnikov talked with him about the “architectural” method of composition, famous compositions and famous musicians with whom the composer worked.
– How did the idea to celebrate your anniversary in Russia? Do you know that your compositions will be played by the Omsk Symphony Orchestra?
– This idea came from the Moscow Philharmonic, which offered to celebrate my anniversary in Moscow. I replied: “I will be happy” because I love Moscow. I heard a lot of good about the orchestra from Omsk. They performed my essay “Lord of the Rats” four years ago, I saw a recording on YouTube, the performance was excellent. Hearing your music performed by an orchestra from Siberia is all the more interesting! It would be great to spend three or four days with them at rehearsals, sorry, Siberia is too far.
– You will hear three of your compositions, which of them is most dear to you?
– Of course, the First Symphony, which will sound in the second part: a large-scale composition, about forty minutes of sound. I wrote it in 1989 in memory of my friends who died from AIDS and continued to die. Among them was one of my closest friends – he lived to see the premiere, which was performed by Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and was at a concert. That moment remains for me very exciting, I put my whole soul into this work.
– The program also includes your Violin Concerto Red Violin. It was written in 2003 and remains among your most performed compositions – this season it is played at least eight times. Is it not a shame that by his fame he overshadows your other, later works?
– Yes, they do play it very often, including this year. It, as you know, is based on my music for the film “Red Violin”, dedicated to the fate of the violin. This is a really popular work, and for me it is especially expensive: my father was a violinist, for more than a quarter of a century he worked as a concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. I have heard his play since childhood, and at the age of 24-25 I wrote the Violin Sonata for him – all the remaining years he played a lot of it. Therefore, I have special feelings for the violin and violin concertos: I heard many of them in his performance, knew by heart, sat at rehearsals, at concerts and listened, childishly afraid, whether he would miss a note, for example, in Carnegie Hall . I was from where to learn the violin repertoire, in which I feel at home. The closer was the idea to write a concerto for violin and orchestra.
– I wonder with what feelings you created it based on the music for the film? For Alfred Schnittke, for example, many key essays grew out of film music, while Edison Denisov regarded this area of creativity as purely applied, separating it from his “serious” essays.
– The difference between music “serious” and music for the movie, of course, is. Film music usually consists of relatively short fragments, two or four minutes long, as a rule, it is short. And it is unlikely that you will have a full-fledged score without a certain basis. As, for example, I did in the first part of the concert, which is based on a series of six chords, following each other in the form of a chaconne, and a melody is born from them. Almost all the melodies in the film are somehow built on this sequence, which gave me material for the first part of the concert, originally written as an independent piece (this is the play “The Red Violin: Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra” – this season it is 6 At the beginning of the next one, the movie “Red Violin” will be shown several times with live music accompanied by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Joshua Bell (App. IO).
– Many compositions based on film music were also created by Philip Glass, who also recently celebrated his 80th birthday. Do you feel yourself a representative of this generation of composers?
– I rather associate myself with the generation of Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Giancarlo Menotti: composers that were my heroes when I started, whose influence I absorbed as I could. Then I went very far in the direction of the influence of Krzysztof Penderetsky, it significantly changed my language, and now it is not at all the same as in my previous writings, such as the Violin Sonata, written in the best American traditions of the time. Now I am writing differently using the technique I have invented. What remains important for me is that romanticism and melody remain in the music, for me this is a priority.