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Andrew Violette

sorabji.com: Obscure Classical Composers: Andrew Violette
By Sorabji on Friday, January 2, 1998 - 05:32 pm:
    Andrew Violette was first introduced to me as "The Sorabji of Washington Heights."

By Jicotea on Friday, January 2, 1998 - 05:55 pm:
    I already told you I don't know from Andrew Violette. Na, und? So tell me (us).

By Sorabji on Saturday, January 3, 1998 - 10:34 am:
    You know, I'd swear I wrote 2 full paragraphs after that one sentence.

    I'll have to collect my thought. Can only think about that guy once in a great while.

By C Berg on Tuesday, January 27, 1998 - 10:40 am:
    I know Andrew also. Is he really "the Sorabji of Washington Heights"? I wonder if he's ever seen this rather strange publicity feature on him. Or if either Sorabji or Jicotea will ever see this...
    Yes, I wonder...

By Jicotea on Wednesday, January 28, 1998 - 06:22 pm:
    Don't be cryptic, C Berg. What publicity feature on Andrew Violette. I am still waiting for Sorabji to enlighten me on that subject. Give!

By Sorabji on Wednesday, January 28, 1998 - 11:56 pm:
    I discovered today that the The American Music Center website has a catalogue of Violette's works available through their search engine. Maybe there is more information to be found in there, but I did not spot it in my quick search of that excellent site.

    I met Andrew one very rainy day at a subway station somewhere in Flushing, Queens. He was kind enough to give me several copies and tapes of his solo piano music, 2-piano music, and chamber music. I had then and still have the intention of performing at least one of these pieces.

    I am fuzzy now as to the details of his life, but when I met him he was living in a monestary in Queens, and I believe he had returned (not recently) to this country from a trip to Asia in which he spent some time exploring what were described to me as "mystical" religions.

    Again, though, this is based on recollections from phone conversations years ago, so I'm not ready to venture into any more detail except to say that Andrew was quite a charming guy when I met him that day.

    His music is obscure but known among pianists and other composers of today. Robert Helps I know to be familiar with Violette's music as well as with him personally; and Janice Webber performed some of his scores and is the dedicatee of at least one of his sonatas.

    It was Don Garvelmann who first described Andrew to me as "The Sorabji of Washington Heights."

    I suspect this description derives from the most obvious shared characteristic of those 2 composers' piano scores: Their massive complexity and, in some cases, tremendous duration. The 3rd Sonata from 1979 is in one movement and, in the recording I have with the composer playing it, over an hour long.

    The 6th Sonata (1985), dedicated to Janice Webber, is much swifter, sort of a perpetuum mobilé cross between the last movement of Chopin's 2nd Sonata and a Godowsky transcription combining 3 or 4 of Chopin's most difficult études into one piece of music for 2 very over-extended hands.

    (This description is only meant for anyone who has never heard or seen these scores.)

    The 5th Sonata is another vast work covering 51 pages and, to apply a quote from Isidor Philippe in his famous reference to Charles Alkan, reaching the utmost bounds in the art of piano playing.

    It is subtitled "Sonata in the form of a Cantata in five movements for piano - based on the American Folk Hymn, "What Wondrous Land is This?"

    Of the works by Andrew Violette with which I am familiar I would say that this is his finest. Written at the MacDowell Colony in 1984 it is, to me, everything American music from late in the 20th century should be. It contains heroic, boldly dissonant strokes of rich, reverberant sounds, genuinely spiritual choral passages, and it successfully explores styles of 20th Centrury music with strength and without sounding like a passive outsider mimicking the styles of other composers for his own use.

    The similarities to Sorabji carry further than simply tremendous duration and seemingly insurmountable difficulty, though Sorabji is, for all his inscrutability, basically an accessible composer to listen to (strictly in my opinion). Listening to Violette takes time, and a bottle of hard whisky, but it is rewarding music full of venom and sweetness.

    Having not visited this music in some time, I think I'll dig up the old tapes and give them another spin, and maybe when I have less of a headache I'll report my observations back here.

By Orion on Monday, May 29, 2000 - 11:54 am:

    I believe Andrew Violette, while living in Washington Heights, was also at that time a personal acquaintance of Joel Feigin who is currently on the music faculty of University of California, Santa Barbara. Does anyone know the whereabouts of Andrew Violette now? Is he still with us in the flesh?

By Eric Schissel on Sunday, June 4, 2000 - 01:07 pm:

    Information on a performance of four sonatinas by Violette can be found at
    (concert previously announced in CCi's newsletter

    Let's see what more information I can turn up here... probably not much alas... an overture for piano was mentioned at http://www.axnet.it/slap/silenzio/h.html but that site seems no longer to exist.

    Ok... library hunt.
    Assuming the same Andrew Violette:
    his Amor dammi quel fazolettino was on an Opus One lp circa 1979 with many works by others. His 1974 "Piano Piece Two" was on a 1980 Opus One lp along with his 1976 "Black tea". A 1978 Opus One lp, in turn, had his 2piano sonata. He was (not to deny he may still be alive) also pianist on a number of others' recordings.

    Black Tea was performed by the Group for Contemporary Music during its 1978-9 17th season (see http://www.stokar.com/Deaver.htm ).

    I realize none of this gives the information desired, but hope some of it is useful to somebody. I will continue seeking the information requested meanwhile.

By Orion on Saturday, August 19, 2000 - 11:28 am:

    It appears Andrew Violette also served, at one time or another, as organist at Our Saviour's Atonement Lutheran church in NYC. His name is referenced at their website at http://www.unidial.com/~osa/history.htm

By D.S. on Thursday, January 11, 2001 - 04:48 pm:

    I recently picked up a flyer indicating that Andrew Violette will be performing at Merkin Hall on January 23. While trying to learn more about him I happened on this website; I thought others here might be interested. There will be two new works for voice and piano, "Songs for a Dead Hero", and "Quare". Soloists are Raemond Martin, baritone and Sherry Zanoth, Soprano.

    Tickets are only $10. The number for the Merkin Box office is 212.501.3330, and I found this link http://www.culturefinder.com/calendar/event?id=151442&date_id=2055392.

By Smartass on Thursday, January 11, 2001 - 05:56 pm:

    I hope you and the other audience member enjoy it, D.S.

By patrick on Thursday, January 11, 2001 - 06:30 pm:


By Daniel ssss on Friday, January 12, 2001 - 06:57 pm:

    HEY!!! that D.S. is not me.

By A fan on Sunday, February 25, 2001 - 12:35 pm:

    Andrew Violette - second concert in his exclusive series at Merkin Hall, NYC . Program includes song cycles "Body of Woman", "Crash", and "Song Set" (all world premieres) with the composer/virtuoso at the piano and the Sixth Piano Sonata performed by Janice Weber.
    Tickets $10, Merkin Box Office 212 501 3330.
    It will be a memorable evening.

By Tim adorable younger brother on Monday, February 26, 2001 - 11:34 pm:

    alas, as Andrew's adorable younger brother, I happened upon this site after happening upon an article in the 2/26/01 Daily News about a singer, in which it was mentioned that she would sing Andrew's songs at Merkin. My kids occasionally ask about him and I thought seeing his stuff in concert would be nice. But-- too late. We are estranged and the last I heard he was trying to be a priest.

    tim violette

By Seahorse on Tuesday, March 20, 2001 - 03:16 pm:

By Snailboy on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 12:31 am:

    LOL...."adorable younger brother" can't be for real....

By Seahorse on Sunday, August 12, 2001 - 07:07 pm:

    "Raemond Martin ... also recently appeared at Merkin Concert Hall in the world premiere of a Spanish song cycle, 'A Un Poeta Menor de la Antología,' based on the poetry of Nobel Prize winner Jorge Luis Borges with the composer, Andrew Violette, at the piano."


By Tim violette on Friday, September 7, 2001 - 12:17 am:

    Hey Snailboy, I am in fact his younger brother; I'm a lawyer and my name can be checked in the NYS bar records sites. I forgot about this site but my son wants to hear Drew's stuff, which I see is available on the web here and there. My son is wildly musical, like Drew was, and the similarities in temperament are almost bizarre! Me? I sing in a chorus and buy a lot of CD's!

    tim violette

By Janet Reid on Monday, February 4, 2002 - 05:19 pm:

    Andrew Violette is playing the world premier of his Piano Sonata Number 7 at Merkin Hall on March 6 at 8pm. It's an athletic endeav€oth musician and audience. It promises to be great!

By Sorabji on Thursday, March 7, 2002 - 01:27 am:

    this concert was stupendous. stupefying.

By Toulon99 on Thursday, March 7, 2002 - 10:11 pm:

    damn I always find out about these things after the fact. SHIT...

    BTW Sorabji, I am happy to have found your site.

By Sorabji on Friday, March 8, 2002 - 01:01 am:

    i attempted a full-out description and review of the concert last night, but was so at a loss for words that i left it at 1 sentence and 1 word. andrew is one of a kind. the most obvious comment to make is that he played for 2 hours and 40 minutes, but it just didn't feel like it was too long. every section was perfectly executed and communicated without overstaying its welcome. and what an astounding stretch of supervirtuoso piano playing. i hope i can get the 7th on CD.

By Toulon99 on Saturday, March 9, 2002 - 12:30 am:

    If you do obtain a recording would you pass along the info on how to buy it? That would be swell.

    Glad you were able to go.


By Janet Reid on Monday, March 11, 2002 - 11:45 pm:

    The concert was utterly and completely wonderful and I too am looking forward to a CD of it, particularly the homage to Phillip Glass's Einstein on the Beach; the section called the Rocket Dance. Watching Andrew's hands fly over the keybaord whing mere, frail, poor words can not describe.

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