Concerto dei Fiori
By Sylvie Bodorová
Born December 31, 1954, in České Budějovice, Czech Republic 

Listen to it here

During her career spanning from the late 1970s, Sylvie Bodorová has become one of the most sought-after and performed champions of contemporary Czech musical culture. Her impressive oeuvre includes numerous compositions for various solo instruments, as well as chamber music, concertos, quartets, trios, symphonies, oratorios, opera, and other vocal works.

After her formal musical training at the Bratislava Conservatory, the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno, and the Prague Academy of Performing Arts, Bodorová went on to more deeply explore 20th century compositional techniques during residencies in Sienna, Poland, and Amsterdam. Her compositions became a fusion of diverse genres and modalities, with an emphasis on such elements as tempo and meter manipulation, timbre, and heterophony, i.e., the simultaneous performance of the same melodic line, with subtle individual variations, by two or more performers. Additionally, she has found inspiration from her studies of Balkan rhythms, the Roma culture, the Jewish music she studied at cantorial schools in Israel, as well as Eastern-European folk music. She has described some of her mature works as “leaning toward Neo-expressionism.”

Bodorová composed Concerto dei Fiori (Concert of Flowers), a one-movement piece for violin and chamber orchestra, in 1996. The music is a piquant melding of moods, at once somber and sweet, wild and meditative. The strings open the work solemnly until the soloist enters with soaring, high-register notes that feel both contemplative and melancholic. Throughout the work there is a constant lyrical tension, a sensation of wandering and discovery, a slow ascension from brooding darkness to a promise of light. Nearly midway through, the soloist breaks into an emotionally intense and restless cadenza, punctuated with moments of piercing dissonance. A softer passage ensues and the soloist once again slowly soars into high-register mode. The work ends not with a bang, but a stately hush, as the ensemble quotes J.S. Bach’s Cantata No. 180, “Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele.”

The text of Bach’s Cantata perfectly embodies the music’s theme of rising from moments of turmoil to a sublime calm: “Adorn yourself, oh beloved soul, leave the dark den of sins, come into the clear light, begin to shine with glory…”

The world premiere of the concerto was in 1997 at the Prague Spring Festival. The American premiere, by the Bangor Symphony Orchestra with violinist Chee-Yun Lee, was in 1998. Both performances were conducted by Christopher Zimmerman. Interestingly, he is the father of the Canton Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster, Cristian Zimmerman. More interesting still, Cristian is playing the work this evening. Recently, the gifted violinist had this to say about the occasion: “I became aware of the work when I was quite young through my father, and was immediately drawn to it. I had been looking for an opportunity to perform it for many years, and when Gerhardt approached me last fall (2018) about performing a medium-length work for orchestra and solo violin, I knew this was a great chance to propose it.”

Tom Wachunas