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4 Sisters: Concerto for Jazz Violin and Orchestra (1997)

Premiere 1 December 1997, Cambridge, England. William Street, violin; Peter Britton, conductor. American premiere Detroit Symphony, 28 January 2004, Regina Carter, violin; Christoph Poppen, conductor. Published by MMB. 25’.

Comment: This piece honors Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan (hence its title).

Review: “For the American premiere of 4 Sisters, David Schiff’s engaging jazz violin concerto, the composer added an opening cadenza of bluesy slides and scampering shrieks for soloist Regina Carter, the Detroit-born violinist who made her Detroit symphony debut Thursday with Christoph Poppen conducting. It was a savvy move, allowing Carter to announce her charismatic presence by painting the air with swing. It also winks at Louis Armstrong’s landmark introduction to ‘West End Blues’, a metaphor made literal later in the concerto when Schiff works in a curlicue quote from Armstrong’s famous cadenza. Schiff is clever. He is conversant enough with jazz that he avoids the potholes of fusing classical and jazz elements by sidestepping the issue altogether. 4 Sisters is a jazz piece, period—but written by a composer on intimate terms with Stravinsky and Ives as well as Ellington.” Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press, 31 January 2004.