“…Between Mozart and Tchaikovsky, came the highpoint of the evening: the world premiere of a Rhapsody for Viola and Orchestra by… Richard Sortomme…”

— Robert Finn, The American Record Guide

July/August 2007



“Cleveland Orchestra”

Robert Finn

“…On one thing everyone agrees: the orchestra is playing as well as ever—-something Clevelanders can hear and take pride in…

Between Mozart and Tchaikovsky, however, came the highpoint of the evening: the world premiere of a Rhapsody for Viola and Orchestra by a New York-based composer that few in the hall ever have heard of.  Richard Sortomme had been a music school chum of Principal Violist Robert Vernon, and in response to a commission from the orchestra he produced a fine 17-minute piece in a conservative modern harmonic idiom that showed off Vernon’s instrument (and his mastery of it) splendidly.  A catchy little neoromantic tune threaded its way through the piece, encountering a brassy march here, a dispute with the orchestral percussion there, and finally a kind of manic Scotch reel episode just before the hushed conclusion.  Here is a work that speaks to an audience with music for savoring rather than academic exercises or arcane technical experiments.  There is not so much repertory for viola and orchestra that such an imaginative and listenable work cannot make its way in the wider concert world…..”

About This Composition

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Program Notes:

Robert Vernon and I first got together in the autumn of 2005 to discuss the new concerto I had been commissioned to write for him and The Cleveland Orchestra. At that time, Bob told me that he believes the “soul” of the viola is lyrical, not virtuosic — and that he hoped the new work would not concentrate on pyrotechnical display. We discussed this subject at length, in relation to the viola and how its musical strengths and character differ from the other string instruments, and I wholeheartedly agreed to honor his sincere request for lyricism over technical display as the primary focus of the concerto. Once I began composing the work in early 2006, however, I felt somehow constrained by this search for lyricism…

Track Information:
Commissioned by: The Cleveland Orchestra YEAR: 2007

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(Score Placement: begin at P 34 measure 370)

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