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akin, the new double concerto by Michel van der Aa for violinst Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Sol Gabetta, receives first performances in Cologne and Amsterdam in May.

Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Sol Gabetta are soloists in Michel van der Aa's new double concerto, akin, premiered at the EIGHT BRIDGES festival in Cologne by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra on 9 May. The 25-minute work was commissioned by ACHT BRÜCKEN/Musik für Koln and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with funds from the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation and Fonds Podiumkunsten. After the premiere at the Philharmonie in Cologne, the concerto travels on with soloists, orchestra and conductor Peter Eötvös for its Dutch premiere at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on 10 May. North American performances follow with the Vancouver Symphony on 7 June and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa in March 2020.

Michel van der Aa has worked with both soloists on earlier projects – Patricia Kopatchinskaja on the violin work Double and Sol Gabetta on his Grawemeyer Award-winning cello concerto with film Up-close. As the composer notes: "akin was inspired by the friendship between these two very special string players, reflected in the score through their sharing of the same musical material and communication with a similar voice. When I was deciding on a title I was drawn to an image of identical twins, inseparable and thinking in a related manner to all outward appearances but perhaps with different personalities beneath.

"There is also an affinity between the solo and tutti material, as if the orchestra is an alter-ego of the soloists, operating in the same perspective. The relationship is not contrapuntal or a conflict of opposites as in some concertos but much more an active and engaged discussion between good friends. The percussion section has a prominent role, often soloistic. There are highly rhythmic sections with drum kit and the percussion triggers the release of energy, with pulse patterns creating timepieces – it as if the internal wheels in a clockwork mechanism are turning at different speeds. This provides the blueprint for the music of the string soloists.

"Like my clarinet concerto Hysteresis, the new work is in two parts. The first movement develops from an intimate opening, bottling up energy like an incubator, while the second movement is much more energetic and virtuosic as if the valve on a pressure cooker has been released. I've decided, as with my Violin Concerto to write a purely acoustic piece without electronics, allowing the soloists to speak. Apart from a few fully scored sections and some dramatic outbursts the orchestration is very transparent to give enough space for the string lines to materialise."

Looking ahead, Michel van der Aa's 3D chamber opera Blank Out receives its French premiere at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in July and Hysteresis receives its Italian premiere at the Venice Biennale in October. His new virtual reality installation Eight with singer Kate Miller-Heidke and the Netherlands Chamber Choir opens at the Holland Festival in June and travels on to the Aix-en-Provence Festival, the Beijing Music Festival in October and KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen in Hannover next summer.

Photo: Marco Borggreve

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