A Score to Settle

By David Wildman | Boston Magazine |

A musical taskmaster unveils her latest test.

Lisa Bielawa, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s composer in residence, isn’t worried about whether many musicians can play her work. Which is good, because most probably can’t: Drawing on arcane sources and unusual sounds, it’s highly complicated stuff to perform. Much to her shock, though, musicians around the world have bought her scores and attempted them, as if they view these compositions as a challenge issued to the masses.

On 3/29, Bielawa will up the ante when her new, aggressively complex Double Violin Concerto makes its debut at Jordan Hall. “The general trend for composers is to make works that can be played by any orchestra, to go for salability,” she says. “What gets me going is the personalization of the piece.” Indeed, Bielawa wrote this concerto for the only two violin soloists she believes capable of performing it: Carla Kihlstedt, who will use her rare ability to simultaneously sing and play, and Colin Jacobsen (of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project), who will handle the difficult, Eastern-style harmonies. The concluding drumroll will be provided by the audience, as jaws hit the floor.