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Lullaby for Natalie

April 14, 2019: Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; Jason Vieaux, guitar

One of the most versatile, compelling, and honored composers of the last fifty years, John Corigliano was born into a musical family—his father a longtime concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic and his mother a fine pianist. He studied with Otto Luening at Columbia University, Vittorio Giannini at the Manhattan School of Music, and privately with Paul Creston. He himself has taught at the Manhattan School of Music, worked for radio and television stations, arranged rock tunes, and even written music for commercials. He is on the faculty at the Juilliard School and holds the position of Distinguished Professor of Music at Lehman College, City University of New York, which established a composition scholarship in his name. He is also one of the few living composer to have a string quartet named after him.

Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1, composed in response to the AIDS crisis during his residency with the Chicago Symphony, won the Grawemeyer Award and two Grammy Awards. He received the Metropolitan Opera’s first commission in thirty years for The Ghosts of Versailles, which won raves and a 1992 International Classical Music Award. His Second Symphony earned the Pulitzer Prize in 2001, and his best-known work, the film score for The Red Violin, won an Academy Award in 1999 and spawned several pieces, including his Violin Concerto. Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan (2000, rescored for orchestra and amplified soprano in 2004) won two Grammy Awards in 2008. The same year Evelyn Glennie premiered his Conjurer for percussion and string orchestra, which won a Grammy in 2013.

Embracing many influences, Corigliano writes music that is mostly tonal, sometimes serial, often lyrical, frequently employing brilliant instrumental effects—always aiming to engage and captivate the listener. He composed his lovely Lullaby for Natalie in 2010 at the request of Anne Akiko Meyers’s husband to celebrate the birth of their first as-yet-unborn daughter. Corigliano writes, “After Natalie’s birth, I placed her name in the title, and Anne sent me a video of her playing it for her baby in a crib. The baby, awake at first, was asleep at the end, so either the five-minute lullaby had bored her to sleep or I had lived up to the promise of my title. I will never know.”

The tender melody of Lullaby for Natalie features a sweet, rocking three-note gesture, almost as if singing the word “lull-a-by,” which gently weaves its way throughout the piece. The occasional slightly dark harmonies in the outer sections soon melt back into the soothing flow, and a throatier melody marks the middle section, though it too is lulling. Three times a rising scale floats into the stratosphere to bring on the tender melody in slight variants, the last time shortened and drifting off ethereally.

Anne Akiko Meyers recorded the original violin and piano version of Lullaby for Natalie with Akira Eguchi on her Mirror in Mirror album and Corigliano’s later version for violin and orchestra with Leonard Slatkin and the London Symphony Orchestra on her American Masters CD. Andy Poxon (see the note for Corelli’s “La Folia” Sonata) artfully arranged the piece for violin and guitar.

© Jane Vial Jaffe

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