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David Abel collaborating with Musical Traditions, Inc./Paul Dresher Ensemble, Paul Dresher, and Alvin Curran

Award: $32,250 Performing Arts grant awarded in 1995

Premiered: March 1997 (piece written by Paul Dresher) and May 1997 (piece written by Alvin Curran)

The Paul Dresher Ensemble commissioned Paul Dresher and Alvin Curran each to compose a chamber violin concerto for acclaimed Bay Area violinist David Abel.  The two works were developed collaboratively by the composers, soloist, and members of The Ensemble. Dresher’s Concerto for Violin and Electro-Acoustic Band and Curran’s Pittura Fresca premiered in 1997.

The Paul Dresher Ensemble is a chamber music group that combines electronic with acoustic instrumentation.  In this project Dresher sought to address a problem faced by many performers, particularly virtuoso soloists–a resistance to contemporary works that extend the resources of their instruments beyond traditional 19th-century techniques.

The ensemble and composers found an ideal partner for their chamber-music experiment in David Abel, who is one of the finest violinists dedicated to contemporary music. Though a committed advocate of contemporary music, Abel had not previously performed in an electronic environment.

While both composers had considerable experience with electronic as well as traditional media, their styles are very different. Paul Dresher has composed and performed a wide range of works, including experimental opera and music theater, chamber and orchestral compositions, live instrumental and electronic  music, and electro-acoustic taped scores for theater, dance, video, radio, and film.  Alvin Curran is internationally known for his compositions, solo performances, and large scale sound installations.  Inspired by the American experimentalist tradition, his works draw on diverse musical sources and electronic media, with a strong interest in improvisation; and exploit his own pianistic virtuosity.  This was his first concerto.