Violin Concerto No. 2Play Clip
It’s hardly shocking that New York music critics, the self-proclaimed arbiters of musical taste, panned the premiere of Paul Creston’s brilliant 1960 Second Violin Concerto at its New York premiere in 1962. They usually never get it right about new music. I imagine it must have shined in the hands of legendary violin prodigy Michael Rabin for whom it was written. (Rabin’s Paganini Caprices are still the only ones I’ve ever heard that are 100 percent flawless as well as musically moving.) Wish I could’ve been there, alas. What is shocking is that it took 35 years for this formidable work to be released on a commercially available recording.
Luckily, Gregory Fulkerson is up to the challenge, and a challenge it is with cascading scales and multiple stops galore. The CD booklet notes gush on about the daredevil cadenza in the second movement, but my moment of fixation is earlier in the movement when the tempo picks up and the violin soars amidst cycling impressionistic brass harmonies. It’s hardly avant-garde by any stretch of the imagination. But, so what! Nearly a half century later we can deal with it as a great work from our past and not be worried about whose zeitgeist it doesn’t neatly fit.