The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music ends its season on Sunday night with two works by jazz trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis. Nicola Benedetti, who will be playing his Violin Concerto, and for whom it was written worked with him throughout its creation. Also on the program is the West Coast premiere of his Blues Symphony.
There’s more information about Sunday’s program (and Saturday night’s ‘Secret Songs’ concert) at the Cabrillo Festival website.
The process of writing a concerto throughout history has often involved composers conferring with their soloists, and in that regard, this case was no different. “He just asked a million and one questions about the instrument, and I think really tried to get into the heart and soul and feel of the instrument,” Benedetti says. “The process was quite lengthy. We were communicating all the time, from the first few notes that he wrote of the concerto. So there was no constant weighted silence, and then suddenly I saw the final product. There was never really a moment like that.” Part of the need for the collaboration was because his real comfort zone as a composer was more closely tied to the jazz tradition. “He hadn’t written very much at all for symphony orchestra without the addition of a jazz band. So he was correcting and improving things throughout the entire time… His creativity, his ability to come up with new ideas and to write new melodic lines and new techniques is incredible. There’s kind of never a limit to what he’s able to create in his mind.” In the concerto, the solo fiddle suite that he also wrote for her, and the Blues Symphony, you can hear his musical roots and voice come through. “His musical language, it’s extremely distinct and recognizable, and even if he wanted to escape that, he can’t. I mean, that’s just the mark of many musicians and many composers.”