Commissioned by the Goldberg Ensemble and Malcolm Layfield, and first performed at the Cheltenham International Festival of Music in 1992. Patterson’s Violin Concerto has become one of the most widely-travelled of all his works, with performances as far a field as America, Australia , Phillipines, France, Turkey and Venezuela. Among the many violinists who have taken up the work, one need only mention Kenneth Sillito, Bradley Creswick, Clio Gould, Maurice Hasson and Erich Gruenberg.
On the face of it, the work’s three-parts-in-one-movement design would point to a classically conceived concerto, with a slow second movement and a fast finale. But it is the opening portion that dispels such cut-and-dried notions. It is perhaps one of the subtlest of Patterson’s constructions, essentially an accompanied cadenza in 2 halves, the first slow, quiet and exploratory, the second more embattled, with the orchestra taking on a more active, even hostile role. It is only when the music winds down, the solo violin having been finally and peremptorily silenced by the strings, that one realises what this opening movement has been about: a search for the slow movement. The solo violin initiates it with a long-breathed melody over a simple, even bare accompaniment. It is not long before the textures open out, with the orchestral strings ramifying out in several solo lines conversing placidly with the soloist. A brief climax slowly brings the music to a calm, rapt end, with the solo violin musing in glistening harmonics. But this peace does not last long: out of the blue, the orchestra seizes the listener by the scruff of the neck with a rough, downward flourish, and the final movement is under way. An ebullient rondo, it maintains its bubbling momentum from beginning almost right to the end. A brief, fiery cadenza is the only momentary impediment before the last frantic dash for home!
© Paul Pellay, 29.05.2000
String Orchestra + Solo Instrument
Solo Violin and String Orchestra
Commission: Goldberg Ensemble
Dedication: ‘To Malcolm Layfield’
Publisher: Josef Weinberger