Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Detroit Free Press: Five questions with composer George Walker [For Violin Concerto at Classical Roots, 'The composer's son, Gregory Walker, will be the soloist.']

George Walker 
(Associated Press)

George Walker (b. 1922) 
has a website at
and is featured at

By Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press Staff Writer 

March 4, 2015

It's a credit to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra that George Walker is a familiar name among local concertgoers. At 92, Walker, the first African-American composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for music (1996), has had about half a dozen of his muscular, expressive pieces performed by the DSO dating back to the 1970s. Some of them were DSO commissions, and the orchestra also recorded his Piano Concerto as part of the pioneering Black Composer's series in the '70s on Columbia Records. A virtuoso pianist, Walker even once played Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the DSO during the summer at the Meadow Brook Music Festival in the '70s on the same program as his "Lyric for Strings," His 2008 Violin Concerto will be performed by the DSO this weekend as part of the annual Classical Roots celebration of African-Americans in classical music. The composer's son, Gregory Walker, will be the soloist. George Walker, who will attend the concerts in Detroit, spoke this week from Montclair, N.J.`

QUESTION: What does the Detroit Symphony mean to you?
ANSWER: My relationship with the DSO has been exceptional and very special because of all of the connections that I've had going back to 1977 when Paul Freeman did my Piano Concerto — then later when Neeme Jarvi was conducting and when Emil Kang was in the administration.

Now with my Violin Concerto, people don't realize how unusual is is to have the father-son combination. I can't think of any other instance going back to the 18th Century of a composer writing a major work for his son to play. And it's not just one piece, but all the others I've written for him.

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