La Viaggio Vita


For violin, trumpet, and piano.
(click play button for samples of all three movements)

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“Viaggio Vita” – Life’s Journey

for Violin, Trumpet and Piano

Duration: 13′

Commissioned by Valerie Stoelzel, in celebration of 20 years of marriage to Richard Stoelzel.

by James M. Stephenson

Program Notes

Another piece for Rich Stoelzel!! Are you kidding me??! I’ve been lucky to have composed many works for Rich, and am very grateful to him for that. But this one is different…

This piece was commissioned by his wife, Valerie, as a surprise gift for their 20th wedding anniversary to be celebrated August 25, 2010. Val knew of my first “Trio Sonata” composed for Rich back in 2001, and wanted to use the same instrumentation for this new work.

With all of my commissions, I try to have a conversation with the “employer” at some point, so as to gain a little insight, and perhaps some inspiration for the new piece. Such was the case when I had a chance to chat with Val in Grand Rapids while visiting Rich’s trumpet seminar earlier in the summer of 2010. When reflecting on their marriage of 20 years, she mentioned all of the “normal” things, of course: how/where they met, what it was like, starting a family, and then, well, “life” experiences, and how it all has led to where they are today. When she mentioned the word “life” – I had my piece. There is so much that goes into that one word – so many ups and downs, trials, rewards; having been married myself for 15 years, and with a family of my own, I am able to understand what truly goes into that one word (at least up to this point), and have tried to capture it in this piece, while dedicating it all to Rich and Val’s marriage.

The first movement is entitled “Courtship”. Many things are symbolized: when they first lay eyes on each other, flirtations, showing off, and a love theme [F]. It is an energetic 1st movement, with chase- scene type music to capture the essence of courtship. The love-theme is repeated in grand-style in unison toward the end of the movement.

“Romance” – movement 2 – is a very tender and simple tune. It represents when everything is “all right with the world” and of course, falling in love! The bass line repeats itself throughout, as a foundation upon which all solid relations must be built, regardless of what tensions might occur. A somewhat ambiguous final chord suggests that things are not always going to be so sunny…
Lastly, “Life” – movement 3 – immediately introduces realities that all relationships must endure if they are to survive. Opinions are expressed by both the violin and trumpet, in a rather argumentative way, with the piano constantly adding commentary. At times in the movement, things get downright dark, before finally, in the midst of all of the commentary, the ground bass from the 2nd movement returns, suggesting that it is actually the combined personalities and opinions from both persons in a marriage that make the relationship strong; and that a marriage is solid because of the unique traits that each person brings to it, and not because one wins out over the other.

Valerie Stoelzel suggested the title of “Journey” – I added the “Life” part, and also the Italian translation, because Val is, as she put it: “a nice, Italian girl.”

Jim Stephenson, August, 2010
©Cover Photo, Mark S. Cox;

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