ProMusica's commissioned violin concerto brings together two friends

Stefan Jackiw
The Columbus Dispatch

By Bill Mayr 

Reflecting the spirit of the season, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra will give one of its most important gifts: a new piece of music.

ProMusica, with guest violin soloist Stefan Jackiw, will perform Jubilant Arcs, by New York composer David Fulmer, on Saturday at the Pontifical College Josephinum and Sunday at the Southern Theatre.

The gift has several layers of meaning.

Fulmer’s composition, ProMusica said, is its 60th commission or co-commission in its 36-year history.

Fulmer wrote Jubilant Arcs specifically for Jackiw, a friend.

Plus, the composition pays homage to 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Somewhat like a story of six degrees of separation, various links led to the new work.

Jackiw and Fulmer had known each other since their teenage years in Boston, where they performed together in a youth orchestra.

Jackiw and Fulmer went on to develop their music careers.

Fulmer, 32, also a violinist, focuses mainly on composing as well as conducting.

“I was always a composer,” he said. “I started studying composition at age 4.”

Conducting, he said, helps him connect with other musicians.

“It would be impossible for me to compose without conducting.”

His Violin Concerto won the 2011 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award.

Jackiw, 29, has an extensive performance resume. In February, he made his Carnegie Hall recital debut, premiering Fulmer’s They Turn Their Channeled Faces to the Sky along with pianist Anna Polonsky, the daughter of Columbus Symphony associate concertmaster Leonid Polonsky.

Several years ago, Fulmer and Jackiw had reconnected and began to discuss ideas.

“It was the fall of 2011, and I was in Australia doing my Violin Concerto,” Fulmer recalled recently by phone. “I gave (Jackiw) a call and said: ‘ You know what, we’ve known each other so long; we see eye to eye musically. Let’s do a big project.’< /p>

“A violin concerto for you, influenced by the Mozart concerti,” which are well-regarded staples of the violin repertoire.

Fulmer wrote the work with the intent that it be performed in tandem with any of the five Mozart violin concertos; ProMusica will play the fifth.

“They share an inevitability of line, a seamlessness to both composers that sort of complements each other,” Jackiw, who lives in New York, said by phone about Fulmer’s work and the Mozart concertos.

“The idea is to take a Mozart concerto and refract it through a Fulmer prism.”

The Heidelberg Fruhling International Music Festival in Germany became the lead commissioner of the work, with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie of Bremen performing the premiere in March.

Jackiw, who had performed in 2011 with ProMusica, also sought out the ensemble as a possible commissioner.

“The musicians and administration of ProMusica had really emphasized they were passionate about new adventures,” he said.

A $10,000 federal grant from the National Endowment for the Arts allowed the orchestra to join the project, said Janet Chen, ProMusica executive director.

“We are fortunate that we’ve had such a good, positive track record of commissions that we receive funding from the National Endowment for the Arts,” she said. “That’s always a good stamp of approval.

“I think we wouldn’t be doing our due diligence if we weren’t ensuring there would be compositions for the next generation of musicians to perform,” Chen said. “Our audience has come to expect that a little bit, I think.

“We’re really grateful for that because not all audiences would want to hear contemporary music."

Performing Jubilant Arcs along with the Mozart concerto helps audience members as they hear an unfamiliar piece of music, Jackiw said.

“I’ve always felt, as a player and a listener, that I can understand contemporary music better when it is performed in context with older works,” he said. “As a consumer of contemporary music, I prefer it that way.”

Fulmer said he will attend the national premiere of his work.

“When you have a gift, like this commission from ProMusica, the only thing to do is grasp it very hard.”