While I was a student, I gave very little thought to new music. For me, violin repertoire ended with the likes of Berg, Shostakovich, Bartok and Stravinsky.
However, in my early 20s, I was asked to premiere Elie Siegmeister’s Violin Concerto. Although the project seemed daunting, my curiosity compelled me to accept this challenge. The early preparation process was tough—it marked the first occasion where I was required to develop my own interpretation of a work—but I found the process to be liberating. Based only on the score and solo part, I had to use my own best judgment to set the tempo, nuances, and articulations. Eventually, I played the solo part for Mr. Siegmeister. Although I was sure I played it terribly given how clueless I felt, the composer was unfailingly kind and encouraging in his remarks about my approach.
This learning process opened a whole new door for me. Gradually, I became more aware of the great works people were writing. Even if I did not fully understand the style or the structure of a new work, it intrigued me endlessly.
Looking back, I realize that being an advocate for new music is an important duty in a performer's career. How many of the great works we admire and love today needed a champion when the work was new? Beethoven needed Joseph Joachim, Sibelius needed Jascha Heifetz, and Stravinsky needed Samuel Dushkin. The list goes on.
While serving as the Music Director of La Jolla SummerFest, I commissioned 54 new works, and this is the legacy that brings me the most pride. Even if only a fraction of these works go on to be beloved works of tomorrow, I will have done my job well.
works commissioned at la jolla summerfest:
Lei Liang: Vis-à-vis, for Pipa and Percussion
Pierre Jalbert: Piano Quintet
Xiaogang Ye: Gardenia, for String Quartet and Pipa
Marc-André Hamelin: String Quartet
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Pas de Trois
Clarice Assad: Synchronous
Richard Danielpour: Last Jew in Hamadan, for Clarinet and String Quartet
Joel Hoffman: of Deborah, for Deborah
Peter Schickele: Spring Ahead, Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet
Sean Shepherd: String Quartet No. 2
Julian Anderson: String Quartet No. 2 "300 Weihnachtslieder"
Sérgio Assad: Candido Scarecrow
Derek Bermel: Death with Interruptions
Stephen Hartke: Sonata for Piano Four-Hands
David Lang: String Quartet, "almost all the time"
Howard Shore: A Palace Upon the Ruins (A Song Cycle)
David Del Tredici: Bullycide
John Harbison: Crossroads
Steven Stucky: Sonata for Violin and Piano
Marc-André Dalbavie: Quartet for Piano and Strings
Aaron Jay Kernis: Perpetual Chaconne, for Clarinet and String Quartet
Sean Shepherd: Oboe Quartet
Joan Tower: White Granite
John Williams: Quartet La Jolla
Cynthia Lee Wong: Piano Quartet
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Quintet for Violin, Viola, Cello, Contrabass and Piano
Brett Dean: Epitaphs, for String Quintet
Christopher Rouse: String Quartet No. 3
Bright Sheng: Northern Lights, for Cello and Piano
Chinary Ung: AKASA: "Formless Spiral"
Stewart Copeland: Retail Therapy
Paul Schoenfield: Sonata for Violin and Piano
Gunther Schuller: Quintet for Horn and Strings
George Tsontakis: Stimulus Package
Toshi Ichiyanagi: String Quartet No. 5
Jacques Loussier: Divertimento
Julian Milone: La Muerte del Angel (arr. movement from Piazzolla's Tango Suite)
Huang Ruo: Real Loud
Kaija Saariaho: Serenatas
Marc Neikrug: Ritual
Joan Tower: Trio La Jolla (renamed Trio CAVANY)
Bruce Adolphe: Zephyronia
Leon Kirchner: String Quartet No. 4
Magnus Lindberg: Konzertstück for Cello and Piano
Bright Sheng: Three Fantasies
Wayne Shorter: Terra Incognita
Bruce Adolphe: Into a Cloud
Marc O'Connor: String Quartet No. 2, "Bluegrass"
Lalo Schifrin: Letters from Argentina
Chen Yi: Ancient Dances (I. Ox Tail Dance, II. Hu Xuan Dance)
Chen Yi: Night Thoughts
Chick Corea: String Quartet No. 1, "The Adventures of Hippocrates"
Bruce Adolphe: Oceanophony
Franghiz Ali-Zadeh: Sabah (morning/tomorrow/future)
John Harbison: String Quartet
Esa-Pekka Salonen: Lachen verlernt
Additional works commissioned, Recorded, and/or premiered:
Gordon Chin: Concerto Formosa Seasons, Double Concerto for Violin and Cello, and Violin Concert No. 1
Tan Dun: Out of Peking Opera and Violin Concerto Love
John Harbison: Violin Sonata
Tyzen Hsiao: Violin Concerto
Aaron Jay Kernis: Double Concerto for Violin and Guitar
Zhou Long: Secluded Orchid for Piano Trio and Spirit of Chimes for Piano Trio
Bent Lorentzen: Violin Concerto
Christopher Rouse: Compline and Violin Concerto
Huang Ruo: Violin Concerto
Lalo Schifrin: Tangos Concertantes
Paul Schoenfield: Violin Sonata
Bright Sheng: Concerto Spring Dreams for Violin & Chinese Orchestra
Elie Siegmeister: Violin Concerto
Steven Stucky: Violin Sonata
Jukka Tiensuu: "Hou" for Violin and Large Ensemble
George Tsontakis: Violin Concerto No. 1
Chen Yi: Chinese Folk Dance Suite for Violin & Orchestra and Romance & Dance for Two Violins and String Orchestra