Tabea Zimmermann, viola / Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin / Jonathan Stockhammer
In 2002 the Radio Choir of Berlin asked me to write a composition for multiple choirs. The result of our collaboration was my twelve-part Easter motet Et resurrexit, premiered the following year under the direction of Simon Halsey. The unique atmosphere of these spiritual texts consequently fused with my intention of writing a concerto for viola and orchestra. What was important to me here was to create a work that emphasised a multifaceted spectrum of sonic relationships. Confronted with ten solo wind instruments, harp, percussion and strings, the viola nevertheless retains formal leadership even within the most exposed musical elaborations.
A few pointers on the formal structure:
The solo instrument’s first six measures present a melodic-harmonic cell which provides the pitch material for new scales derived through linear variation. These scales drive the compositional developments that follow.
While the intention of the first movement is constituted by thematic and motivic unfoldings, the second (principal) movement features virtuoso elements that create a specific dialogue between soloists and the orchestra. The uniqueness of a nocturnal Easter atmosphere, filled with a sense of expectation, characterises the musical language of the third movement.
The viola has four cadenza-like episodes each of which carry significant formal weight. At the middle of the first movement free play leads to a condensed recapitulation. The second movement starts from a gradual "warming up", continues with rhythmic virtuoso elements that strive towards soloistic exposition, and arrives at a cadenza that prepares - through varied repetition - the climax of the whole work: a chant (derived from the initial theme of the first movement) that gradually involves all of the instruments and is finally sublimated by the viola.
Soaring overhead in its high register, merely touching the edges of the sonic edifice, the viola spins out its lines at the beginning of the third movement, leading straight into the fourth cadenza which marks the start of the final section. The solo violin and solo cello hesitantly start the epilogue in which the mysterious atmosphere described above is turned into solid determination by the entry of the full orchestra, only to be conclusively led back to the main theme of the first movement by the viola’s lively solo passages.
© Frank Michael Beyer, May 2004
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer