Magazine article Strings

Vadim Repin Premieres MacMillan's Violin Concerto

Magazine article Strings

Vadim Repin Premieres MacMillan's Violin Concerto

Article excerpt

Did the London audience experience the millennium's first great violin concerto?

WITH THREE MOVEMENTS ENTITLED "Dance," "Song," and "Song and Dance," I thought I knew what to expect from James MacMillan's new Violin Concerto, co-commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Zaterdag Matinée.

But I was wrong.

Soloist - and dedicatee - Vadim Repin and the LSO, conducted by Valéry Gergiev, had barely begun the May 12 premiere in London's Barbican Hall before I was jolted upright in my seat. This was no polite invitation to take my position on the dance floor. Rather, it was a demand to get in there and let my hair down.

"As a Scot, I've grown up with fiddle music," MacMillan, 51, explained in an earlier interview. "I used to play in folk bands when I was younger and fiddles were always the core part of that music. If I can plug into that reservoir of experience and memory ....

"I hope to unleash something that can affect the concerto," he continued, "something that can give it a soul that both sings and dances."

MacMillan's Celtic heritage infuses most of his music, but the influence is particularly strong in this new work. The first movement, alternating typically rhythmic motives with rippling harmonies, centers on a Scottish reel. The second includes an amalgam of Irish folk tunes remembered from childhood. And the mood of the resulting vocalize changes between stormy (angry orchestral accompaniment) and haunting (piano and piccolo only). The third movement combines, in MacMillan's words, "the physical energy of the first, but some of the singing quality of the second, while introducing a new feeling of burlesque. …

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