This weekend: Pulitzer Prize-winning, Kanye West-collaborating N.C. native Caroline Shaw comes home for the symphony | Music

This weekend: Pulitzer Prize-winning, Kanye West-collaborating N.C. native Caroline Shaw comes home for the symphony

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Caroline Shaw - PHOTO BY PIOTR REDLINSKI/COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • Photo by Piotr Redlinski/courtesy of The New York Times
  • Caroline Shaw
According to some ads running on WUNC FM, this weekend's North Carolina Symphony concerts feature Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony and a violinist named Caroline Shaw. They give no hint that Shaw is a North Carolina native, that she won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in composition, that she’s recently been hanging out with Kanye West or that she’s in town to play a new violin concerto, Lo, that the Symphony actually co-commissioned. Any orchestra can play Beethoven 8. Only Shaw can play Lo.

Shaw premiered the piece in March with the Cincinnati Symphony. She played the solo. The concerts on Friday and Saturday will be only its second set of performances ever. As with all of her music, Lo once again shows off Shaw’s humble and collaborative approach. She has described the work as “a piece for a lot of players, and I’m going to play the violin,” and the “solo” part weaves in and out of the orchestra with ease. Her work is also largely improvised, with just enough written down to remind herself of the general shape of a section. Each performance of the work is different, as if the entire solo part were one giant cadenza.

Writing about the premiere, The Cincinnati Enquirer called Lo “consistently imaginative” and described Shaw’s playing as “haunting, sometimes soaring rhapsodically over busy pizzicatos in the strings or bubbling winds.” I can’t wait to hear it for myself.

I also can’t wait for the day when orchestras are confident enough to promote their concerts with the newest music on the program, not the oldest. 


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