Huw Watkins’ Violin Concerto has received warm critical reviews, following the world premiere at the BBC Proms on 17 August. Performed by Alina Ibragimova, Ed Gardner and the BBC Symphony, the concerto promises to be a major new addition to the repertoire and is a result of his growing collaboration with Ibragimova. Having met at the Royal College of Music, the two first having worked together when, as a BBC New Generation Artist, Ibragimova invited Watkins to write her a solo work, Partita.
Cast in three movements, the fast outer movements centre on motivic and rhythmic ideas with syncopation throwing the listener off the beat. The middle movement is a slow lullaby with a predominantly string accompaniment. The work offers the soloist passages of high lyricism alongside passages of bravura covering the full range of the instrument.
“…Its bittersweet English lyricism and brutal chromatic rebellions had a persuasive champion … Opening with a battle of snatched exchanges between soloist and orchestra (which continued to stalk the later movements – finally transfigured in the concerto’s Coda into a harmless whimpering flutter), the music soon gave way to higher, lyrical gestures, parried by remorseless grunting from the brass. The central slow movement, a fragile almost Howellsian melody in the solo violin, was daringly simple, its melodic certainly only entertaining the possibility of doubt in its closing moments. Favouring allusion and suggestion over absolute certainty, this delicate and elegantly structured work is the natural heir to the English traditions of Howells, Rubbra, Bax, and even Britten…”
The Arts Desk, 18 August 2010
“…Its conventional three-movement plan was executed with remarkable assurance and finesse. The ravishingly coloured slow movement is flanked by an opening that alternates between hyperactivity and introspection, and a finale that winds up to a huge climax and discharges its energy in a lingering coda…”
The Guardian, 18 August 2010
“…It eschews the big-boned structure of the traditional concerto to explore more fertile territory … it was the vein of lyricism that runs through Watkins’s score that was tapped so eloquently here. The Andante second movement was especially memorable in this regard, though composer and interpreter found the space for bitter-sweet lyrical expression too even amid the scurrying syncopations of the finale…”
“…Watkins’ slow central movement begins its meditative explorations, with much nocturnal beauty and rhapsodic inwardness along the way…”
The Daily Telegraph, 18 August 2010
The performance is available to listen to on BBC iplayer until 23 August at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00t755w.