After more than half a century since it was written, Peter Mennin’s Aria will be performed with violinist Robert McDuffie as the soloist on Friday 18 August

_DSC7540 pc-Alex Irvin '15

Violinist Robert McDuffie performing with the Aspen Festival Orchestra and Michael Stern in 2015 © Alex Irvin

Read more news stories here

A neglected work for violin and orchestra will finally enjoy its premiere at Aspen Music Festival, more than half a century after it was written.

Peter Mennin’s Aria was originally intended as the second movement of his Violin Concerto, written for Roman Totenberg. Mennin began composing the work sometime during the 1950s, but had only completed a single movement in short score.

The premiere performance, which will feature Robert McDuffie as the soloist with the Aspen Chamber Symphony conducted by Cristian Măcelaru, coincides with the centenary of Mennin’s birth year. Mennin studied at the Oberlin Conservatory while still a teenager, going on to study composition with Howard Hansen at the Eastman School of Music. He became president of the Peabody Conservatory in 1958, where he met Totenberg, who encouraged him to write a violin concerto. However, progress on the concerto ceased by 1962 when Mennin became president of the Juilliard School.


Peter Mennin

Although his symphonies were performed and recorded by artists such as Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, George Solti and the Chicago Symphony, Mennin’s music is seldom heard in concert halls today.

Historian Walter Simmons recounts his recollections on the discovery of Aria. Simmons had been actively involved in studying and writing about Mennin and his music since the 1970s and was preparing an entry on the composer for the New Grove Dictionary of American Music around the time of Mennin’s death in 1983.

’During this period, I met many times with [Mennin’s wife] Georganne,’ Simmons told The Strad. ’In or around 2005, she showed me the Aria score which I believed was a piano reduction. Examining it, I quickly realised that this was the slow movement of what was clearly a violin concerto.’

In 2015, Simmons became acquainted with German conductor Christoph Schluren, who was interested in 20th century American composers, including Mennin. By 2021, Schluren was keen to include Mennin’s Aria on a recording of American music for violin and orchestra.’When I mentioned this to Georganne, she was agreeable to the idea,’ said Simmons. ’But, as it happened, Schluren was not able to raise the necessary funding for this recording. It was around that time that Georganne informed me that she had discovered the orchestral score for the Aria.’

Violinist and friend of the Mennin family Martin Stoner arranged for a piano reduction and full score of Aria to be realised and printed after first copyrighted by Georganne Mennin and family in 2023 to be used for the Aspen premiere. The full score and piano reduction were supervised by composer, Richard Danielpour, a composition student of Mennin’s at Juilliard and a classmate of Alan Fletcher, Aspen president and CEO. Anthony Costantuno made the printed full score using handwritten notes and corrections in Mennin’s hand and Brandon Zhou made the piano reduction for Robert McDuffie’s use.

The premiere came about through the composer’s son, Mark Mennin, who is friends with Fletcher and his partner Ron Schiller. Fletcher agreed to programme Aria for August 2023, with McDuffie, who was already booked, as the performer.

’Several months ago,the Aspen Music Festival asked if I would perform the premiere of a newly discovered work by Peter Mennin,’ McDuffie told The Strad. ’I immediately said yes, not only because he was a wonderful composer, but he was also my president at Juilliard.  I have remained close with his family over the years, and I consider it a great privilege to be part of this happy project.’ 

McDuffie will perform the work on the 1735 ’Ladenburg; Guarneri ;del Gesù’ violin, the sound of which McDuffie describes as ‘sweet and powerful and is a perfect match for this new work.’

More information about the concert can be found here:

Best of Technique

In The Best of Technique you’ll discover the top playing tips of the world’s leading string players and teachers. It’s packed full of exercises for students, plus examples from the standard repertoire to show you how to integrate the technique into your playing.


The Strad’s Masterclass series brings together the finest string players with some of the greatest string works ever written. Always one of our most popular sections, Masterclass has been an invaluable aid to aspiring soloists, chamber musicians and string teachers since the 1990s.


This year’s calendar celebrates the top instruments played by members of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony, Australian String Quartet and some of the country’s greatest soloists.