Two years before I wrote The Blue Room, I had sketched out two themes that I wanted to turn into a violin concerto. It was only years later, when I was asked by conductor Robert Bolyard to write a piece for his graduation recital from Yale in 2007, that the piece actually began to take shape.
The Blue Room is in two movements. The first movement contains the two themes from the initial sketch, essentially recreating a previous vision of the piece, and the second movement was my response to that vision. The title was taken from a poem called White Key, by the Poet Laureate of California, Carol Muske (the text of which I later set for choir). The line reads, “…like the light on the bed / In the blue room where I last held you.” The poem is such a poignant expression of love and loss and has resonated with me for years, since the day I first heard it.
2Fl (+picc), 2Ob, 2Cl in Bb, 2Bsn
This piece was commissioned by Robert Bolyard, conductor. It was premiered on April 14th, 2007 at Battell Chapel, Yale University with violin soloist Alexander Woods.
“Esmail’s music is often angular, a little like Shostakovich. The soloist plays lyrical melodies over swirling sounds from the orchestra, or interjects its comments between big, jagged, dramatic blocks of sound. Partway into the second and last movement, a staccato theme builds up in the orchestra as the violin darts around it. It then breaks up into fragments that form the basis for most of the rest of the movement. This theme is so catchy that I heard someone whistling it during intermission. When’s the last time that happened at a modern music concert?” – The Daily Journal