Few artists enjoy such high praise for both of their disciplines as composer/violinist PHILIP WHARTON. The New York Times proclaimed, "A rousing performance!" The New Jersey Star Ledger writes, "Wharton played wonderfully." His compositions, heralded from coast to coast, are described by the New York Concert Review as, "… decidedly contemporary…both engaging and accessible."
Beginning violin studies at age 10, Philip went on to earn Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the Eastman School of Music. He continued his training at the Guildhall in London where he earned an artist’s diploma. Philip toured with Gidon Kremer and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, but he couldn’t shake the urge to compose. For years, Philip had sought something in addition to performing. He wanted to sculpt time. So at Eastman, he studied composition with Warren Benson and Joseph Schwantner. He continued his studies in composition at Juilliard with John Corigliano, David Del Tredici and Samuel Adler.
Philip grew up in Decorah, Iowa and draws inspiration from nature and his family of musicians, artists and theologians. His recent work, The Prairie Sings, was commissioned for an art show opening of images of the prairie by his aunt, Kristi Carlson. So well received was this cycle of songs on poems by Carl Sandburg, Wharton expanded it into a full symphonic work.
Performers play Philip’s music around the world. International pianist Jens Barnieck recently programmed The Prairie Sings on a concert to introduce German officers to American culture. Barnieck says Philip’s music is "his own, individual musical language… it’s wonderful how the vocal line melts into the piano part." In the summer of 2005, the Santa Fe Opera mounted Two Saintes Caught in the Same Act as part of their apprentice scenes program. In 2005, the Grammy-nominated Borealis Wind Quintet premiered his Quintet and continue to perform it on their concert tours.
Remaining active as a violinist, in Spring 2007 Philip premiered his composition, Oh, But Everyone Was a Bird, a fantasy for violin and string orchestra, with the Iowa City String Orchestra. In the same concert he performed a Vivaldi concerto for violin and two orchestras with great élan. The following summer, the Moscow Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra premiered Verdant Twilight and then accompanied Philip as soloist in Bernstein’s Serenade.
Philip never compromises his skill or musical integrity. Many performers say the music is challenging but never impossible and always rewarding. One performer said, "It’s the most complex music I’ve ever played that sounds beautiful." Another says his "effects are not for effects’ sake, but to make the audience follow." The Forth Worth Star-Telegram agrees, saying Philip’s psalm setting, Praise, Laudate! was "The most complex and, in many ways, the most interesting." The Cedar Rapids Gazette writes, "Wharton’s composition received enthusiastic applause." After one concert an audience member said, "your music makes me a better listener." This is Philip’s goal. To use his talent to communicate experiences: the prairie on a windy day, a stormy night in Iowa, or the feelings of a mother at Christmas. For Philip, creating music is a vocation and a responsibility to write music that compels audiences to listen, while leading them to a new level.