“If we were all determined to play the first violin we should never have an ensemble. Therefore, respect every musician in his proper place.” – Robert Schumann
Bozeman Music | Ever hear a violin mimic the sound and audio patterns of a flute, a clarinet, or even an entire orchestra? It’s certainly possible, as a quick tour through YouTube might demonstrate. Still, Funk’s Vili: Concerto for Violin Alone is believed to be the first music written to include those instrumentals and more, all played in one piece by one violinist.
A native of Deer Lodge, contemporary classical music composer and conductor, Eric Funk has written over 120 major works and is an institution himself within Montana State University’s School of Music. He’s also the longtime host of 11th & Grant, an Emmy Award winning television program that showcases Montana musicians. The artist at the heart of this composition is Vilmos Oláh, a Hungarian virtuoso violinist, concertmaster, and winner of the coveted Mozarteum Prize in Salzburg, Austria.
Funk encountered Oláh several years ago at a private recital on the outskirts of Bozeman. Sitting in the small gallery and inspired by the unique virtuoso before him, the first spark for the concerto illuminated Funk, and he proposed the idea to Oláh right after the show.
The Hungarian was immediately piqued.
What followed were months of Funk developing the three-movement concerto, lots of correspondence between the two artists, a 10-day meeting in Budapest to hone every detail, and then countless hours of practice for the violinist to achieve it. The composition incorporated elements of Hungarian folk music, national history, and culture, as well as a few insights from Oláh’s family life. Thus, the concerto is uniquely prepared for this musician, appropriately enough, since Oláh is one of a very few in the world capable of mastering it.
Early on, back when his was more concept than concerto, Funk invited along key players from the 11th & Grant production team (as well as several of Montana PBS’ stalwart donors). With brilliant filmmaking by director/producer Scott Sterling amidst the incomparable backdrops of Montana and Budapest, The Violin Alone was brought to life, premiering at the Ellen Theatre in Bozeman on Thursday night. Funk, Oláh, and Sterling were all on-hand, answering questions from a delighted audience after the presentation. —B/H
Montana PBS will air the show on January 9th at 8pm, January 11 at Noon, January 22 at 10am, and January 27th at 9pm.
Blake Maxwell is a contributing writer with BozeHome.