Two protégés of minimalist composer Philip Glass will premiere his Double Concerto for Violin and Cello with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra this weekend.
The performances on Friday and Sunday mark the TSO debuts of cellist Wendy Sutter and violinist Tim Fain and the first time the piece will be played in Tucson. Sutter and Fain recorded the Double Concerto in 2008 and have performed it with Glass throughout the world.
“It’s special to play the piece with Tim because it was really discovered with him and Philip, the three of us,” Sutter, 46, said in a phone interview from New York last week. “Tim and I and Philip really gave birth to the piece, found the flow of the piece. He’s the one to play it; he’s the best.”
“It’s a stunning piece. It’s really captivating just in the way that it moves from very intimate textures, just the violin and cello together, to full orchestra with all of the different sections of the orchestra represented,” added Fain, 36, speaking by phone last week from home in Montana. “It’s a full, almost overwhelming sound contrasted with these very intimate moments. It’s a breathtaking piece and I for one am looking forward to playing it in Tucson.”
This is the only time the pair will perform the piece together this year; Sutter said she is usually asked by orchestras to perform it with their local concertmaster, but Tucson offered her a chance to bring in Fain.
“It’s the original cast and the very best cast,” she said.
This will be the first time the TSO has played the piece, which Glass, 76, composed for Sutter several years ago. Glass and Sutter had dated and performed together for several years after Sutter met Glass while she was part of the Bang on a Can All-Stars in the mid-2000s.
Fain met Glass in 2007 when he toured with him for his “Book of Longing” song cycle project based on Leonard Cohen’s 2006 poem collection of the same name.
“There was a moment in the show when the violin took the fore for a very short but very fast, furious little movement called ‘I Enjoyed the Laughter,’ ” said Fain, who also has made a name in Hollywood appearing on camera as the violinist for the Academy Award-winning movie “Black Swan” and ghost-playing the violin segments in the just-released film “12 Years A Slave.”
“I came off the stage very impressed with how his writing had evolved for solo string. I ended up asking him about writing a bigger piece for solo violin,” Fain recalled.
Glass ended up writing his Partita for Solo Violin, a seven-movement, 33-minute major work that Fain recorded. It comes out next spring.
Glass’ Double Concerto sounds more classically inclined than his earlier minimalist works, highlighted by more pronounced harmony and counterpoint.
“Philip’s music is very accessible. And his orchestration is quite classical in a way and I relate to it quite easily,” said Sutter. “And I enjoy it. It reminds me of Baroque music in a way.”