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The Florida Orchestra will present its most 'substantial' world premiere this weekend

The Florida Orchestra will feature the world premiere of a violin concerto by Tampa-born composer Michael Ippolito.
The Florida Orchestra
The Florida Orchestra will feature the world premiere of a violin concerto by Tampa-born composer Michael Ippolito.

Throughout musical history, composers have turned to fellow musicians to help them create.

That was the case with Johannes Brahms. For his famous violin concerto, he worked with virtuoso Joseph Joachim.

And it is with Tampa-born composer Michael Ippolito, who worked on his new violin concerto with Jeffrey Multer, concertmaster with The Florida Orchestra. Ippolito dedicated the composition to him, too.

The Florida Orchestra will feature the world premiere of Ippolito's concerto during its programs scheduled Dec, 2-4.

 Florida Orchestra Concertmaster Jeffrey Multer stands for a solo
Courtesy The Florida Orchestra
Florida Orchestra Concertmaster Jeffrey Multer stands for a solo

Ippolito said Multer planted the seed of the idea for the concerto about four years ago after the orchestra premiered Ippolito’s “Triptych,” which has a brief violin solo.

“And he (Multer) thought the solo writing was ... really great. And he said, ‘If I could just get a fiddle concerto out of you,’ and, you know, it's sort of, be careful what you tell composers because … I sort of latched on to that I thought, ‘Oh, I've got to make that happen,’ ” Ippolito said.

Multer said he enjoyed the collaboration, which also provided insight for the musical interpretation.

“It's great to be able to just work with a living composer and kind of nail things down a little bit, get things cleared up. Yeah, I mean, I've been back and forth with him quite a bit the last couple of months, about just like little tweaks, alterations, clarifications, that kind of stuff," Multer said. "And it's great because ... he's there, he's alive, he can talk to me, I can't call Beethoven (laughs) ... so it's very nice to be able to have that interaction.”

Ippolito said the two-movement concerto was also inspired by the time he has spent in books.

“The extra musical idea that kind of got me going was I was reading a lot of Greek mythology, there's a great new translation of “The Odyssey” by Emily Wilson, which I read. And two novels by Madeline Miller, “Circe” and “The Song of Achilles,” he said.

Multer explains his concerto has “no specific story, but just sort of the idea that the violin is the protagonist, and sort of spins this thread of thought. And then the second movement is based on the three Fates, the one who spins, the one that measures and the one that cuts. And these Fates, of course, were in complete control of everybody's destiny, whether they were mortal or immortal in in mythology,” he said.

Since 1997, Multer has been playing a violin made by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume. Composer John Corigliano lent it to him. It belonged to the composer’s late father, John Corigliano Sr., who served as concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic from 1943 to 1966.

Multer gave the premiere of Corigliano’s “Lullaby” at the Eastern Music Festival in 2014. Multer also worked very closely with Corigliano on his violin concerto.

Now, eight years later, he will be the soloist in Ippolito’s violin concerto. Ippolito studied composition at Juilliard with Corigliano.

In 2018, when The Florida Orchestra commissioned Ippolito’s "Triptych" for its 50th anniversary season, Multer said Ippolito based the work on poems of Wallace Stevens, “who, of course, lived a big chunk of his life in Florida, and happens to be my favorite poet. So right way, I liked the guy, and then I found out that his teacher was the guy that owns my violin and was my dear friend, John Corigliano, the composer, so then we had that in common. And yeah, so that was a wonderful experience for me to get to play his music, and ever since then, I’ve been a real champion of his work,” he said.

For years The Florida Orchestra has been commissioning and playing the works of young composers. Multer said the orchestra's audience is used to hearing new music.

“As a matter of fact, a lot of the times when you come to a Florida Orchestra concert, a new piece is on the program and the composer’s in the audience because we've really made a commitment to that. So, (this composition) it'll just be a bigger version of that because this is indeed the longest and most substantial piece the orchestra has ever commissioned."

The Florida Orchestra performs Ippolito's new violin concerto as well as Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 at the Straz Center in Tampa (8 p.m. Dec.2) and Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg (8 p.m. Dec. 3 and 2 p.m. Dec. 4).

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