Soloist(s) and orchestra
Band / Wind / Brass Ensemble
Large ensemble
2-8 players
Solo (excluding keyboard)
Solo keyboard(s)
Chorus a cappella or plus 1 instrument
Chorus and orchestra
Solo voice and up to 8 players
The Ghosts of Versailles: arias and excerpts (voice(s) and piano)
Three Cabaret Songs (voice(s) and piano)
End of the Line
Film scores

The Red Violin (1997)
Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra

see also The Red Violin: Chaconne for Violin and Piano, The Red Violin (film score), The Red Violin: Suite for Violin and Orchestra, and the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra ("The Red Violin")


First performed November 26, 1997, by Joshua Bell, violin, with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Robert Spano, conductor; San Francisco, CA


Listen to a sound clip

rent score and parts from G. Schirmer Inc 

buy piano/violin reduction from G. Schirmer Inc


Scored for 3 flutes (2 doubling piccolos), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 C or D trumpets , 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion (3 players), harp, piano or celeste, and strings

Duration  17 minutes



Cloë Hanslip, violin, with the Royal Philharmonic, Leonard Slatkin, conductor Naxos 8.559302 (2006)
Joshua Bell, violin, with the Philharmonia Orchestra;
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
Sony SK63101 (1998)


Program note

The Red Violin: Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra draws upon music I composed for the film of the same name. The film spans three centuries in the life of a magnificent but haunted violin in its travels through space and time. A story this episodic needed to be tied together with a single musical idea. For this purpose I used the Baroque device of a chaconne: a repeated pattern of chords upon which the music is built.

Against the chaconne chords I juxtaposed Anna's theme, a lyrical yet intense melody representing the violin builder's doomed wife. From these elements I wove a series of virtuosic etudes for the solo violin, which followed the instrument from country to country, century to century.

I composed these elements before the actual filming, because the actors needed to imitate actual performance of the music. Then, while the film itself was shot, I made - from Anna's theme, the chaconne, and the etudes - this concert work. While I scored the film just for the soloist and string orchestra (to emphasize the "stringness" of the picture), I composed this seventeen-minute concert work for violin and full orchestra.

As The Red Violin: Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra begins, diaphanous ascending string lines unveil the chaconne chords, voiced in incantatory dotted rhythms, in low winds and brass. Then solo violin and orchestra utter, and expand on, Anna's theme. Virtuosic etudes quicken the pace, lead to a rushing climax; these yield to a stratospherically high, gravely slow melody, which remembers, against slowly shifting string sonorities, Anna's romantic theme. The string chords louden, strengthen with winds and brass: then the soloist reclaims, in determined accents this time, the diaphanous string line that opened the score. The orchestra halts to launch the soloist's cadenza, impetuous and songful by turns: then the chaconne, in strings chords rendered brittle by sharp attacks with the wood of the bow, gradually climax in a grand tutti restatement of the incantatory opening and a whirlwind coda for all.

                     — John Corigliano

© 2021 John Corigliano | Designed by Wlad Marhulets | Artwork photos by Richard Howe