Violin Concerto

(1993, revised 1998)

Duration: 25 minutes

Violin Solo, Chamber Orchestra (2222.2200, hp, perc. (3), timp., strings)

First performed by Christopher George/University of Bristol Operatic Society Orchestra, cond. Jonathan Lyness, 6 November 1993, St George’s Brandon Hill, Bristol
First performance of revised version Marcus Barcham-Stevens/Avon Sinfonia, cond. Owen Leech, 13 December 1998, Hope Centre, Hotwells, Bristol.

Listen to extracts of the violin concerto performed by Marcus Barcham-Stevens violin, the Avon Sinfonia & conductor Owen Leech:

1st movement (opening – letter O)

2nd movement (letter S – end)

3rd movement (extract 1)

3rd movement (conclusion)

Programme Note

This piece was commissioned in 1993 by the University of Bristol Operatic Society, and was written specially for the violinist Christopher George. Five years later, I decided to revise the work for a chamber orchestra, extending the last movement and orchestrating the piece more fully.

The piece, cast in three movements, opens with a series of seemingly unrelated fragments which will are to form the primary musical material of the piece. A huge orchestral climax launches into a furious allegro, contrasted by a more lilting, waltz-like second subject. A long development ensues, culminating in an unaccompanied violin cadenza and a coda recalling the opening of the allegro. The slow movement contrasts serene, still music on its outer limits framing two violin cadenzas with a highly charged section at the centre. The last movement’s sinister, brooding opening soon gives way to more showy, sumptuous music, leading into a long development section in which fragments from earlier movements are obsessively repeated over a steadily intensifying whole-tone canon. This culminates in a climax and a gradual disintegration, which is superceded by a richly harmonised affirmative chorale. The piece ends with a dissolution of the chorale material and a return to the uncertainty which opened the work.