NL première Viola Concerto James MacMillan

Tomorrow, Friday 2 December, the British violist Lawrence Power will play the Dutch première of the acclaimed Viola Concerto James MacMillan wrote for him in 2013. He’s performing it with the Radio Filharmonic Orchestra under the baton of the young Israeli conductor Lahav Shani in the AVROTROSVrijdagconcert in TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht.

I attended a rehearsal today and made a reportage for the live broadcast on Radio 4 (8-10.30 pm). You can see and hear a filmed version on YouTube.

The Viola Concerto is a thrilling piece, full of driving rhythms, colourful instrumentations, bewitchingly fast viola figurations and an intensely touching second movement. With its slow pace, rich harmonies and soaring viola melodies it sounds almost like a hymn.

The third movement is a show-off, with the violist playing daring glissandi and humoristic ‘false notes’ at a boisterous pace, creating a cartoonesque atmosphere. Lawrence displays an impressive command of even the wildest pyrotechnics – a true ‘powerful’ violist if ever there was one. Nevertheless he also shines in the more delicate and intimate passages.

‘Consort of viols’

MacMillan harks back to the past with a ‘consort of viols’ (two violas and two cellos) that both mimic and comment on the soloist, adding an extra layer to the music. Lawrence Power: ‘This is an absolute dream piece for me, for my generation James MacMillan is the British composer, we grew up with his music. I admire him deeply for daring to write harmonic and direct music in a time when we tend to over intellectualize art.’

Our talk will be broadcast on Friday 2 December on Radio 4  between 8-8.15 pm. I’m also doing the pre concert talk in the main hall of TivoliVredenburg, and Power will be my guest from 7.30-7.45 pm. MacMillan’s Viola Concerto is flanked by Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. Hope to see you in TivoliVredenburg!


Lawrence Power & Thea Derks, MCO Hilversum, 1 December 2016

4 -12-2016 The concert was a huge success, with an immaculate perfomance of MacMillan’s Viola Concerto by Lawrence Power, Radio Filharmonisch Orkest and Lahav Shani. The audience cheered endlessly.

Manon Tuynman, producer of AVROTROSVrijdagconcert made a picture of my pre-concert talk with Power, I used it as the thumbnail for my YouTube post above.


About theaderks

Thea Derks is a Dutch music journalist, who studied musicology at Amsterdam University. She' specialized in contemporary music and always has an eye open for women composers. In 2014 she wrote the biography of Reinbert de Leeuw and in 2018 she published 'Een os op het dak: moderne muziek na 1900 in vogelvlucht'.
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