Written by composer Eric Ewazen
“Concerto for Marimba and String Orchestra” was written in the summer of 1999, and premiered in the summer of 2000 by She-e Wu, who commissioned the piece, and the Moments Musicales Orchestra of Taiwan, under the direction of Paul Po Po Chiang. It was subsequently recorded by She-e Wu with the International Sejong Soloists.
I have always loved the sound of the marimba since I first became acquainted with the instrument when I went to college at the Eastman School of Music. It’s glorious golden tone, virtuosic and lyric capabilities, and uniqueness has made it a favorite instrument of mine. It is also an instrument that has been continually evolving over the last several decades. Since I first began composing for it, an entire extra octave was added below (in stages, interval by interval.) Having written a Marimba Solo in 1989, called Northern Lights, I was eager to subsequently write the concerto for this “new, expanded” instrument. That opportunity came in 2000 when She-e Wu contacted me.
Working with She-e was fantastic! I went over to her home, and she played several pieces for me — by Eric Samut, Joseph Schwantner and also my piece, Northern Lights. Her dazzling playing was inspiring. She displayed how expressively the marimba can be played, with a wide variety of dynamics and textures. I was so inspired by her playing I began composing the piece that night when I got home. As I wrote the piece I would give it to her, in some cases, even playing it for her over the telephone. We would get together, and I would hear her play passages of the music, getting and incorporating so many of her wonderful suggestions on how to make the piece idiomatic for the instrument. It was all great fun — and a true collaboration.