Tara Murphy prepares for Darwin Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Barber’s thrilling Violin Concerto

DSO Concertmaster, Education and Outreach Officer, and Soloist extraordinaire Tara Murphy has been preparing for DSO’s 2023 season-opening performance, Dances of Fire, where she, along with Darwin Symphony Orchestra, will perform Barber’s thrilling Violin Concerto.

A stunningly virtuosic piece, Barber’s complex Violin Concerto demands 110 bars to be played by the soloist without interruption, making this one of the few almost non-stop concerto movements in violin literature.

Tara Murphy with Darwin Symphony Orchestra for Carnival of the Animals in 2022

Tell us a bit about Barber’s Violin Concerto. What is the audience likely to feel while listening to this piece?

How someone reacts or feels to a piece like the Barber is incredibly intimate and personal. But for me, the Barber is expansive until it is not, and full of hopefulness that turns ominous. It reminds me of being a child and playing outside on a sunny day, where you look down at the ground and you see the shadows of clouds as they pass the sun, for that moment the sunny day is darker and colder, but that moment is fleeting.  

Is this your first encounter with this piece of music? Has it been challenging, enjoyable, or stressful to prepare for?  

The last movement is nuts, just completely and relentlessly nuts for everyone on stage. The solo part is nuts, there is an orchestral unison (where we all play the same nuts thing together.) My part has a lot of notes, and not so many rests. I just try and remember to keep breathing and try and let go of any tension in my body. The orchestra is like a wave, if you miss it, it is gone and if you fight it, you will fall. It is nuts.  

How have you been preparing for this piece? What has your routine looked like? Are there any particularly challenging or enjoyable sections in the music? 

 I have two small children, I work, I teach, and I am a violinist. So having space to think and practice is near impossible. Whatever I can do to maximise my Barber time I do. I listen to recordings a lot. I have listened to so many recordings that I have started to measure distance in Barber Concertos e.g., from Charles Darwin University to Darwin Entertainment Centre is one Barber concerto (traffic dependant.) 

Other than that, the metronome has been my friend. 

What should the audience listen or look out for in this piece of music?

The first note is awesome. It is a D, and it needs to sound warm, bright, and silky. 

You can witness Tara performing Barber’s Violin Concerto with Darwin Symphony Orchestra in Dances of Fire, on Saturday 18 March, at Darwin Entertainment Centre.

Tickets are on sale now.