This concert features America’s 20th century modern Romantics. Barber’s violin concerto was written as a commission for one of his Curtis Institute classmates, Iso Briselli. Barber had already become known for works such as his popular Adagio for Strings, taken from an early string quartet. This concerto continues in the same vein of lush romanticism. The first movement begins with a lyrical introduction from the violin. The quirky response from the orchestra could almost be an American folk tune. The elegiac second movement is introduced by an oboe solo and sustained by the most transparently-scored orchestra. The soloist has a chance to express her virtuosity in the motoric rush of the third movement.
Though well versed in the major compositional styles of the 20th century, Copland realized he wanted to create new music with American roots that acknowledged the growing influence of radio, recordings and film scores on a new audience. “It made no sense to ignore them and to continue writing as if they did not exist. I felt that it was worth the effort to see if I couldn’t say what I had to say in the simplest possible terms.” Written just after WWII, this symphony is a truly American symphony, expansive and optimistic. Its immediate appeal includes themes that may be more familiar in other contexts, such as moments from Copland’s ballet Appalachian Spring that appear in the second movement, and the Fanfare for the Common Man that is hinted at throughout and appears in its fullest form in the last movement.