EDWARD GREGSON: Violin Concerto (World Première). Lyn Fletcher (violin) Hallé Orchestra, Kent Nagano. Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. 03/02/99.
Edward Gregson has made concerto-writing something of a speciality. In three linked movements which last about 30 minutes, the Violin Concerto is his first for a member of the string family. It is a grand, neo-Romantic work with echoes of many other 20th Century composers. This seems appropriate for a work written in the dying months of 1999 but its fin de siècle feeling seems as full of excitement about the future as wistful for the vanishing century. Its style ranges widely from gritty Expressionism in the first movement to a touch of Arnoldesque light music in the beautiful second subject of the Finale. There were hints of Copland and the bitter-sweet sounds of the Berg Violin Concerto in the substantial opening movement. The powerful, heavy tutti strings in the slow central movement were reminiscent of Shostakovitch. The dance-like Finale celebrated the folk element in the fiddle, with transparent orchestration. Edward Gregson's use of his large orchestra was frequently sparing.
Lyn Fletcher gave a virtuoso performance suffused with poetry and a special lyricism which the composer deliberately exploited. Edward Gregson's Violin Concerto is a glorious addition to the repertoire and should appeal to other violinists. The folk-like Finale of the Violin Concerto whets the appetite for another epic work imbued with such rhythmic, life-enhancing spirit. I look forward to hearing more orchestral pieces from this composer who has just completed a large-scale work for choir and orchestra, "The Dance, Forever the Dance":
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