My Violin Concerto is scored for a Classical-sized orchestra, with the addition of a harp and celeste, and lasts around 17 minutes. Although the work sets out to explore the lyrical characteristics of the solo instrument, it is only gradually that the violin finds its full, lyric voice, and thence, as the work progresses, a more dominant role. This, in one sense, is the ‘journey’ of the piece.
The work’s straightforward formal scheme consists of three movements (roughly fast–slow–fast) framed by a reflective introduction and epilogue. However, these formal divisions exist within a single, unbroken arc. Such an overall symmetrical shape places the slow Arioso (itself divided into three subsections) at the midpoint, sandwiched between the two Allegro movements.
The dramaturgy of the piece centres on a twofold search. First there is the ongoing pursuit to ‘recapture’ the simple melodic material stated by the solo violin – accompanied by the harp’s bass register – during the opening bars. Whilst aspects of this melody are invoked frequently throughout (especially in the violin cadenza which closes the Arioso movement), it is only with the final and most important climax of the work that the melody appears again in its complete form, now accompanied by violent, orchestral stabs. The second search is for a tonal resting place, the arrival of which is delayed until the close of the epilogue.
The original version of the Violin Concerto, commissioned by the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, was premiered in Amsterdam in February 2012 with Gordan Nikolic as soloist. The present, revised version was created for Barnabás Kelemen and the Hallé. The piece is dedicated, with admiration, to my friend Oliver Knussen. (Ryan Wigglesworth)