Double Concerto

Double Concerto  (2008) for violin, cello, and orchestra - 28'
-vln+vcl solo + 3(2+picc),3(2+EH),3(2+Eb),3 4331 Timp+3 perc Hp, Cel, Strings
-Commissioned by Meet the Composer "MusicAlive!" 
-Premiered January 2009 by Jaime Laredo, Sharon Robinson, and Sarah Hicks

Rental information

Program Listing

Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Orchestra (2008)
1. Con Moto
Interlude: Calypso's Dance
2. Adagio
Interlude: Iseult's Alba
3. Con moto



...supercharged with electrical energy and raw emotion


Program Notes

A colleague of mine would begin his music history class every year by asking the question, "What is Love?”  His students would titter or giggle, but then they would get down to it.  How can you invest your life in music—or anything else for that matter—without knowing?  Khalil Gibran said famously: “work is love made visible.”  I believe that in so many ways it is exactly that.

As this season was programmed we saw that my double concerto would be performed with a piece called “Romanza” and music for “Romeo and Juliet.”  Alan Jordan suggested, half-seriously I think, that my piece should be about love, too.  I thought that was a great idea!  What more natural a subject for a double concerto written for Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson; two people devoted both to each other and to a lifetime of loving music.

“Love is a Many-Splendored Thing,” they say, and its many aspects go beyond the Valentine’s Day variety.  The Greeks defined love in three primary ways: “Eros,” “Agape,” and “Philia.”  When I looked into these definitions I found the seeds for my piece, which would be my own essay on love in a time when there doesn’t seem to be a lot going around in the world.  I didn’t want to be too abstract about it either, so I decided to choose three love stories to frame the drama and inspire the music.

“Eros” is the lustful, carnal, sexual love that the Greeks ranked as the basest kind (and yet was so much of what motivated their gods!).  For the first movement, I imagined one of the most intense evenings in all mythology: the night before Odysseus leaves the goddess Calypso.  In the Odyssey we read that she saves him from certain death in a shipwreck that killed all of his men.  Calypso compels Odysseus to be her partner for nearly a decade, living alone together in her desert island exile.  But he still desires to return to his original home.  Calypso finally relents and allows him to make a raft and sail away.  I read the Odyssey years ago and wondered how she must have felt, knowing that as a goddess she would live forever, and, after letting him go, live forever alone again.  The soloists play together for the greater part of the movement, writhing amidst both a changing background of traditional sounds of dance and moments of chaos.

The second movement is on the other end of desire—not as a reflection of consummation but as an evocation of unrequited love; the “courtly love” of “Agape.”  The story of Tristan and Iseult (as is the original spelling) is the inspiration for this movement, and is a familiar one to many music lovers.  Tristan is a soldier in the King’s army, and he captures Iseult in battle for his master to marry.  Tristan and Iseult fall madly in love with each other after unintentionally taking a magic potion, but they know they cannot be formally together because of their positions in life and obligations (Tristan to his King and Iseult to her husband).  As in so many stories of love, be it Romeo and Juliet, Lancelot and Guinevere, or Tony and Maria, where circumstances kept them apart the afterworld would not, and the two meet in tragic death at the end of the story.  This is reflected in contrast to the first movement, in that the soloists do not play together until the very end.

The third movement is a tribute to “Philia,” or love of mankind and society.  I could think of no better illustration of love for fellow human being than the story of Buddha.  Here, I was most interested in celebratory music, full of bells and bright sounds.  In connection to the idea of rebirth and cycles, I set the music for this movement as a rondo, repeatedly returning to the same musical place after journeying elsewhere, and to end in a loud unison.

Set in-between these movements are two interludes.  In the first interlude, I imagined Calypso’s frenzied dancing and the Greek tradition of slowly quickening steps.  For the second interlude I wanted to address medieval notions of sacrifice in the Tristan myth, and so wrote chant set within distant dissonant accompaniment.

My work with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra has been a wonderful collaboration for me, and I am delighted to have my double concerto performed by this ensemble and these two magnificent and loving soloists.

To end with one last quote: “if music be the food of love, play on.”


Ludwig orchestrates with the skill and sophistication of a Ravel, and generates the power and thrills of a John Williams adventure film score. At times the barbaric splendor of Bloch’s Schelomo or Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast comes to mind. The opening grabs you immediately—dark, ominous chords for the low brass set against throbbing drums. The soloists enter to manic figuration. Offsetting all this drama is a second subject of haunting beauty—yearning, infinitely lyrical, gently rocking. The central Adagio is deeply soulful, while the third movement is a madcap dance set to irregular rhythms. The music is thoroughly engaging on its own but takes on deeper layers of meaning when heard in tandem with the program notes. Each movement is about a different kind of love. Want a teaser? The first depicts “one of the most intense evenings in all mythology,” writes Ludwig, “the night before Odysseus leaves the goddess Calypso.” Ludwig depicts the scene in music supercharged with electrical energy and raw emotion.–Fanfare

The concert continues with Ludwig’s Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra of 2008. It’s in three movements, each inspired by one of the Ancient Greek concepts of love, with the addition of brief interludes after the first and second. The opening con moto depicts lustful “Eros” where the composer had in mind Odysseus’ last night with the goddess Calypso. Brilliantly scored, the music is quarrelsome one minute and amorous the next with the soloists, who presumably represent the protagonists, engaging in a heated virtuosic exchange.

The following interlude known as “Calypso’s Dance” is a catchy bizarre number for violin and percussion. One can imagine the goddess shedding veils in a final dance of seduction to keep Odysseus from leaving her island. But it’s to no avail, and she must resign herself to living alone, suffering the pangs of unrequited love, which is the subject of the next adagio devoted to “Agape.”

Here Ludwig takes as his example star-crossed lovers Tristan and Iseult (Tristan and Isolde), creating a mournful reverie in which they’re portrayed by the soloists. They rarely play together except at the very end, where legend has it the enamored are finally united in death. The somber, at times intimidating interlude for cello and orchestra called “Iseult’s Alba” (“Iseult’s Love Song”) that’s next, is an aria-like postscript to the preceding movement.

This music is diametrically opposed to the final con moto dealing with “Philia,” or nonphysical love for family and friends. Here the figure of Buddha was foremost in the composer’s mind. Accordingly he celebrates the Buddhist notion of reincarnation with a perky chime-emblazoned rebirth rondo which ends the concerto in an explosive coda that includes some final fireworks for the soloists.–Classical Lost and Found

David Ludwig is a new name for me. A graduate of Oberlin, Juilliard and Curtis – where he now serves on the composition faculty – Ludwig is also the New Music Advisor for the Vermont Symphony. This three movement Concerto is a sparkling and evocative work whose movements are intended to evoke three aspects of the meaning of love. As Ludwig explains, a former professor would get his students to contemplate how any creative act could not be authentic without knowing what it is one is trying to express. Hence, the three movements are titled Eros, the sexual and physical love; Agape, the unrequited love and Philia; the love of mankind and society. The imagery is fascinating and a joy to listen to. The first movement is the longest and most languid with an undercurrent of urgency. The second takes its yearning, mournful sound from the Tristan and Iseult (the original spelling of the more familiar ‘Isolde’) legend wherein the two solo voices do not even play together until the end. The last movement, Philia, is a buoyant and eastern sounding celebration, filled with bell like timbres. The movements are separated by two short interludes that evoke the moods of the preceding movement. This is a wholly satisfying and fascinating work!–Audiophile Audition

“David Ludwig’s new Double Concerto, written for and performed by VSO Music Director Jaime Laredo on violin and Sharon Robinson on cello, engendered real excitement in the audience…This is a substantial work, exciting and moving, adding yet another double concerto to the repertoire written for Laredo and Robinson.” –Times Argus

“The guests’ vehicle, David Ludwig’s Double Concerto, was further incentive — a recent work (2008) by a significant American composer…Like much of Ludwig’s music, the Double Concerto evinces a tragic sense of life. Melodies or melodic fragments yearn but seem thwarted. There are episodes of violent struggle, deep shadow and plangent orchestral dissonances, but also of serene beauty and vaulting athleticism. The language is Modern in its means but Romantic in its ends.There is often a feeling of intense strangeness as one harmonic region yields to another, but the listener is always pulled along, wanting to know how the story ends.” –Incident Light

“David Ludwig writes an expressive concerto in three movements with interludes. His subject is love of three kinds: sexual, tragic, and love for mankind.” –American Record Guide