Corigliano: Violin Concerto, Phantasmagoria / Ludwig, Falletta, Buffalo PHilharmonic

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Fragmentary, kaleidoscopic, hallucinatory … creates a wonderfully atmospheric sense of colliding realities.



CORIGLIANO Violin Concerto, “The Red Violin 1.” Phantasmagoria: Suite from The Ghosts of Versailles • JoAnn Falletta, cond; Buffalo Phil O; 1 Michael Ludwig (vn) • NAXOS 8559671 (61:02)

John Corigliano composed the score to The Red Violin, which turned out to be a masterpiece in its own right. Then, in 1997, with work on the score already completed while shooting on the film continued, Corigliano composed a new, 17-minute piece he called The Red Violin: Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra based on the chaconne progression he’d written for the film. But Corigliano wasn’t done with his Chaconne. Not wishing it to remain a stand-alone piece like Chausson’s Poème , Ravel’s Tzigane , or Beethoven’s Romances, he decided to write three new movements, using the Chaconne as the first movement of a substantive, nearly 40-minute-long violin concerto. And that is what we have here on this disc.

The violin the soloist here, Michael Ludwig, plays, is an 18th-century Lorenzo Storioni, from which the violinist draws a tone that is both liquid and penetrating. One could argue that Corigliano’s concerto is owned by Joshua Bell, for he has been more closely associated with it and more directly involved with the composer than Ludwig, or, for that matter, anyone else. Still, much as I appreciate Bell’s playing in general, I feel there are moments in this piece where he applies the schmaltz a little too thickly. Ludwig resists that temptation, and I think the concerto emerges the better for it.

From the opening of Corigliano’s Phantasmagoria , a suite extracted from the composer’s largely successful opera The Ghosts of Versailles , you’d never guess that this creepy, slithery music sets the stage for what is essentially a “comedy.” As a work detached from its literary references and stage setting, Phantasmagoria becomes a virtuoso showpiece for orchestra. The piece seems to divide into two approximately equal halves. Much of the first half is busy, bustling, noisy, and nutty; the second half, from 13:03 to the end, is calmer, more lyrical, and takes on the feeling of fate accepted, which it is in the opera as Marie is beheaded a second time and reunited with Beaumarchais in Paradise.

Strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins

The Buffalo Philharmonic plays throughout with confident assurance under JoAnn Falletta’s baton. Assuming these are live performances ensemble and accuracy in these highly complex scores is excellent. In the spirit of even-handed fairness I should say I have read reviews of this disc elsewhere which make a point of praising the engineering reckoning it to be of award-winning standard. I cannot share that view but as with so many aspects of music; it is all a matter of taste. The Concerto is a very impressive work and one written with a great deal of care and love by John Corigliano – a wonderful tribute to his father. This Corigliano Concerto is right up there and hopefully its appearance on the Naxos with the benefits of distribution and affordability that brings will ensure many more music-lovers will get to hear this powerful and compelling work.

-- Nick Barnard, MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Release Date: May 25, 2010

  • Catalog Number: 8559671

  • UPC: 636943967126

  • Label: Naxos

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Contemporary

  • Composer: John Corigliano

  • Conductor: JoAnn Falletta

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Performer: Michael Ludwig


  1. Phantasmagoria - Suite from The Ghosts of Versailles

    Composer: John Corigliano

    Ensemble: Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

    Conductor: JoAnn Falletta

  2. Violin Concerto, "The Red Violin"

    Composer: John Corigliano

    Ensemble: Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

    Performer: Michael Ludwig (Violin)

    Conductor: JoAnn Falletta