• Michael Blake Watkins
  • Violin Concerto (1977)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)
  • 111(bcl)120001perchpstr
  • violin
  • 18 min

Programme Note

Michael Blake Watkins: Violin Concerto

My work for solo violin, The Wings of Night was chosen as the test piece for the 1976 Carl Flesch International Violin Competition. Following this, Yfrah Neaman, the competition’s director, asked me if I would like to write a work for him. The result of this collaboration is the Violin Concerto and it is dedicated to Mr Neaman with all my thanks for his encouragement.

Following the concerto’s premiere at a BBC studio performance with the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, Yfrah Neaman gave two performances with the London Mozart players. The first as part of the 1979 Portsmouth Festival and the second at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. Since then, Mr Neaman has performed the work in Bulgaria, Germany, Holland and Romania and in April 1984 he will gave the American premiere in Princeton

The concerto is in one movement and is scored for small orchestra consisting of single woodwind, two horns, percussion, harp and strings. The mysterious introduction, dominated by a bass clarinet solo, winds slowly upwards leading to the soloist’s entry. This is characterised by its rising motif and accompanied by the strings’ sliding tapestry of sound and the woodwind’s orchestral tutti which, in turn, is subdued to a mere whisper with the soloist emerging with its opening motif in transposition.

The work then leaps into a lively allegro dominated by strident chords and canonic horns. The horn passages are taken up by the soloist who is soon overwhelmed by the rest of the orchestra. Then follows a slower section reminiscent of the opening featuring a solo viola punctuated by the bass clarinet. This passage introduces the concerto’s main theme, clearly heard as the soloist’s next entry. A more rhythmic interpretation of the violin’s first subject with an agitated orchestral accompaniment leads to a developing dialogue between him and the orchestra. A brief recapitulation of the orchestral allegro culminates in a dramatic climax.

A short cadenza precedes an extended development section working towards the soloist’s impassioned statement of the main theme, soaring above a sea of sound. This is immediately contrasted with a sharply focused argument between the insistent soloist and the agitated orchestra before a grand restatement of the main theme is played by the full orchestra.

A second brief cadenza leads to the concerto’s focal point. This feverish climax is interrupted by a dramatic passage played in unison and leads in turn to the soloist’s main cadenza. An elegy for violin and orchestra is followed by a gentle reminder of the soloist’s opening material bringing the work full-circle to its distant conclusion.

The Violin Concerto was commissioned by Yfrah Neaman with funds made available by the Arts Council of Great Britain.

© Michael Blake Watkins