John Corigliano's Violin Sonata

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Parents worry. That’s their job. Take the parents of the American composer John Corigliano, Jr., for example. Both were musicians, and both knew that earning a living as a composer would be no easy task.

For many years, Corigliano’s father was the concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic. Corigliano Junior recalls: “He did everything he could to discourage me. He knew firsthand that the composer was the lowest man in the musical hierarchy. ‘Performers don’t want to bother with your work, and audiences don’t want to hear it. So what are doing it for?’ he would say.”

After her boy graduated from Columbia, Mrs. Corigliano was at the beauty parlor one day and ran into the mother of the chairman of the Lehman College music department, and asked about getting her son a job. The chairman called him in for an interview and eventually hired Corigliano as an adjunct professor. John Jr. also made ends meet by working at classical music radio stations, producing recordings for Columbia Masterworks, and assisting Leonard Bernstein with his Young People’s Concerts.

But on today’s date in 1964, one of Corigliano’s early chamber works, a Sonata for Violin and Piano, was premiered in Italy at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto. It won a chamber music prize, and its success helped establish young Mr. Corigliano as an up-and-coming composer.

Corigliano’s parents probably continued to worry. But they must have been proud as well. And John Corigliano Senior even made a recording of John junior’s new Sonata. But then, maybe dad was just worried somebody else wouldn’t play it right...