Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Catherine Fukuda ’07, the winner of this years’ Concerto Competition, will perform Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto on Saturday night as part of the College Orchestra’s spring concert on Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. in Lang Concert Hall.
The concerto has a place close to Fukuda’s heart. “It’s the first piece I studied here at Swarthmore, and I think I’ve grown so much from working on this piece.” The concerto, she says, is “very Romantic, but very open feeling. You can tell it’s by an American composer…There’s something very special about this piece.” The orchestral writing is complex and occasionally very difficult. “Barber’s orchestration is pretty amazing.”
The Barber Concerto itself also has an interesting story behind it. Commissioned by a soap tycoon for his adopted son, it was rejected for its unusual form. The first two movements are intensely lyrical and neo-Romantic, while the third is a short, bracing five minutes of moto perpetuo triplet eighth notes. The original violinist deemed the final movement unplayable (as he did not want to play it), and demanded a new one. Barber did not comply, the premiere was given by another violinist and the concerto has a firm place in the repertory unusual for a modern work.
Fukuda, a native of East Hartford, Connecticut, has been playing violin since she was five. She began using the popular Suzuki method, but finished the whole series of lessons “relatively quickly…in about a year and a half,” and began to study in New York at the age of eight. She currently studies with Barbara Sonies. A double major in music and biology, she is not sure which field of study she will pursue professionally.
Fukuda describes chamber music as very important to her musical life (she will be playing both Brahms sextets at the April 30 Fetter Chamber Music Program concert). “I think playing with other people who share the same passion as you is an incredible experience.” Playing with a whole orchestra of people with the same passion, however, is a bit more complicated. “If you play with an accompanist, you can just do whatever you want…but with an orchestra, you’re dealing with 60 other people. There’s a lot of give-and-take.” Though the concerto is a modern work by a somewhat unfamiliar composer that some in the audience may approach with trepidation, Fukuda thinks that “everyone will love it.”