Shin's violin concerto: an hommage to the genre

Shin's violin concerto: an hommage to the genre

One of our ricordilab 2019-2022 laureates, Donghoon Shin celebrates the world premiere of his violin concerto in Pécs, Hungary, in November 2020. But let’s hear what the composer himself has to say on the project: 

“Completed! Concerto for violin and orchestra, 500 bars, c.22 minutes. Writing an orchestra piece during this pandemic felt somehow surreal. Anyways, I’m so privileged to write this concerto for one of my favourite violinists Kristóf Baráti. It will be premiered by him and the Pannon Filharmonikusok, conducted by my dear friend Boon-Hua Lien on November 12th. (I mean, if everything goes well!...). I express my deepest gratitude to Peter Eötvös and the mentoring programme of the Peter Eötvös Foundation for this opportunity.”

—Donghoon Shin


for violin and orchestra – – timp – 3perc – pf.hp –
World premiere: 2021, Pécs
Duration: 22’


12.11.20 (postponed to 2021)
Kodály Centre Concert Hall, Pécs
Kristóf Baráti (vl.), Pannon Philharmonic Orchestra, Boon-Hua Lien (cond.)

Kristóf Baráti-c-Marco-Borggreve

About the work

“How many Violin Concertos have been written in the music history since the birth of the genre? Hundreds? Thousands? Or even more?”

This question was the first thing that came to my mind when I was asked to write a new Violin Concerto.

As an extremely successful genre of music, Violin Concerto indeed has a rich history of masterpieces conceived by the greatest composers; from Vivaldi to Ligeti. Wouldn’t it be a futile effort to plant another seed in the ground already overcrowded? And will I even be able to find anything meaningful to contribute while the masterpieces are still being constantly played around me?

Ironically this fear gave me the inspiration to write my Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. I decided to write a concerto about the concerto itself; about its history, legacy, musical features and aesthetics. I borrowed some historical passages from the great Violin Concertos, to then deconstruct and reinvent them- give them totally new shapes, meanings, idioms and aesthetics. The whole process of the composition of this piece was like playing hide and seek with the great masters and their masterpieces and I believe that the audience might be able to detect traces of the little game that I played.

Like many traditional concertos, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra has three movements titled Sonata, Aria, and Round Dance.

As the title indicates, the music begins with a movement in sonata form, as in traditional concertos. For a long time, I have been wanting to reconstruct this musical form in an atonal context. As the sonata form is strongly related to the function of harmonies, this movement is also a playful game of musical unity and contrast which are achieved by using pitch relations and harmonic directions in an atonal context.
The second and the third movement share some technical aspects as they both are experiments on contrapuntal, polyphonic writings; although they demonstrate a strong discrepancy in terms of length, tempi and musical characters.

The second movement Aria was especially inspired by J. S. Bach’s polyphonic writing led by the solo Violin in Erbarme dich, mein Gott from St. Matthew Passion. Although it is not exactly a concerto, it is obviously a monumental piece in the history of violin music. Like in Bach’s famous Aria, two layers appear in this movement, placed in different registers to make each one aurally distinctive. The solo violin in the low register and the woodwinds in the high register are continuously intertwined. The orchestral layer becomes gradually heterophonic with the support of divided strings which imitate the woodwinds like shadow figures.

The third movement Round Dance is a mosaic-like reconstruction of not only the previous movements but also the history of the concerto genre.

— Donghoon Shin

Photos: Marco Loumiet; Marco-Borggreve