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James Niblock: Violin concerto

This site present my effect on the world premiere of the Violin concerto (1950) by James Niblock (1917-2018).

The Violin concerto of James Niblock remained unperformed until 05.07.2014 when Walter Verdehr (violin), the Blue Lake Festival Orchestra and Raphael Jimenez (conductor) played the world premiere.

My part in that story was to be the initial spark to let James Niblock retrieve the old score from his basement. Here the whole story from the announcement of the Blue Lake Festival website:


"The world premiere of Dr. James Niblock’s Violin Concerto has been more than 60 years in the making. As the composer’s wife, Helen, relates, the renowned violinist Josef Gingold requested a concerto from Dr. Niblock just after the latter joined the Michigan State University faculty in 1948. However, Gingold, at the time the recently-appointed Concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, was never able to play the work, as Georg Szell preferred having “well-known composers” on his programs. Louis Krasner, to whom the composer later showed the work, liked the piece but stated that he had “given up playing virtuoso-type music in favor of the more experimental styles like Berg and Schoenberg.” Relegated to a trunk in the Niblock’s basement for many years, an inquiry about the work from a German student caused Dr. Niblock to retrieve it. Walter Verdehr spotted the work and, after reading through it at home, proposed to give the premiere performance at Blue Lake this summer."


From well-informed circles I was told that George Szell nevertheless wanted to bring the concerto on stage, parts had been produced and the Cleveland Orchestra rehearsed the work, only to find out that the copyist of the parts made so many errors that the concerto was virtually unrehearsable and so unperformable. No correct parts were later made and so the score was put away by James Niblock into a trunk in the basement of his house. After my inquiry about the score nearly 60 years later, history took its course and for the reason of the storage of the manuscript the work is nicknamed "Trunk concerto" by James Niblock.

And here the message from James Niblock after the world premiere:

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© Tobias Broeker