Blue Electra for violin and orchestra | Michael Daugherty, composer

Blue Electra
for violin and orchestra (2022)

  1. Courage (1928)
  2. Paris (1932)
  3. From an Airplane (1921)
  4. Last Flight (1937)

World Premiere: November 10-12, 2022 / The Kennedy Center, Washington, DC / National Symphony Orchestra / Gianandrea Noseda, conductor / Anne Akiko Meyers, violin

Composer’s Note:

Blue Electra (2022) for solo violin and orchestra was commissioned by and written for violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, who premiered the violin concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gianandrea Noseda at The Kennedy Center on November 10, 2022.

Blue Electra is inspired by the sensational life and mysterious disappearance of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart (1897-1937), who vanished without a trace when she was flying her “Electra” airplane over the Pacific Ocean. Celebrated around the world as “Queen of the Air,” she was also an advocate for women’s rights, an aviation professor at Purdue University, and the author of three books and numerous poems.

The concerto is in four movements:

The first movement “Courage (1928)” is a musical reflection on a poem written by Amelia Earhart before her first transatlantic flight across the Atlantic:

Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace,
The soul that knows it not, knows no release
From little things;

Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights where bitter joy can hear
The sound of wings.

After her pioneering flight as the first woman to fly nonstop solo across the Atlantic,  Amelia Earhart received the Legion of Honor from the French Government. In the second movement “Paris (1932)”, I imagine Earhart as a guest of honor celebrating at a high society “Hot Jazz” soirée in Paris.

The third movement “From an Airplane (1921)” is a musical rumination on a poem written by a young Amelia Earhart dreaming of the day she will be in the pilot seat of an airplane as it spirals through the clouds:

Even the watchful, purple hills
That hold the lake
Could not see so well as I
The stain of evening
Creeping from its heart
Nor the round, yellow eyes of the hamlet
Growing filmy with mists.

The fourth movement “Last Flight (1937)” refers to Amelia Earhart’s attempt to fly around the world in her “Electra” airplane. Running out of fuel on the last leg of her flight, Earhart and her plane disappeared somewhere over the Pacific never to be found.

-Michael Daugherty (2022)

Amelia Earhart with her Electra airplane (1937)
Composer Michael Daugherty and Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers (2021)