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Work of the Week – Gerald Barry: Viola Concerto

18 May 2019, violist Lawrence Power and Britten Sinfonia will give the world premiere of  Gerald Barry’s Viola Concerto with conductor Thomas Adès. The concert at Saffron Hall in Saffron Walden will be the first of two performances of the new concerto this month; the second takes place at the Barbican Centre in London on 21 May 2019.

The result of a co-commission between the Britten Sinfonia, Raidió Teilifís Éireann, and
the Viola Comissioning Circle, the Viola Concerto is the latest in a series of concertos that began with Barry’s Piano Concerto (2012) for pianist Nicholas Hodges.

Gerald Barry: Viola Concerto – a concerto in C major and then D major

Gerald Barry’s frequently shows a light side: The LA Times wrote that his opera The Importance of Being Earnest (2009-10) was ‘something rare: a genuinely comic opera’. Barry
remarks in his programme note that the Viola Concerto has similarly amusing moments, including a section where the soloist teaches the tutti violas how to play in a series of higher
and higher call and response exchanges.

I’ve always loved the viola – the dark mysterious sound – it’s a twilight zone Mozart played it and you can hear his love of the colour in the music Other magnificent examples in my head are Berlioz’s Harold In Italy and the four pieces by Morton Feldman which he called ‘The Viola In My Life’. The first half of my concerto is in C Major and the second half is in D Major. – Gerald Barry

Following the two performances of the Viola Concerto in May, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and Lawrence Power will give the Irish premiere in spring 2020. On 26 May 2019, the Britten Sinfonia and Thomas Adès will perform Gerald Barry’s work for soprano and orchestra, The Eternal Recurrence (1999) with soloist Claudia Boyle at the Barbican and Nouvel Opéra Fribourg’s new production of The Importance of Being Earnest will be performed in
Paris on 16, 22, 23, and 24 May 2019.


Photo: Alan Betson