| Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No 6|
with Edward Vandespar viola, Moray Welsh, Rebecca Gilliver &
Jenny Brown 'cellos,
Alberto Bocini double bass & John Alley harpsichord.
George Benjamin - Viola, viola
with Edward Vandespar viola
LSO Barbican Hall London :: May 8 2003
The Strad - Catherine Nelson
Violas were under the spotlight once again for the London Symphony Orchestra's 8 May concert, also at the Barbican, as part of the 'By George! Musical encounters with George Benjamin' series. Benjamin declares that, 'The underestimated viola has become one of my favourite instruments in recent years,' and this concert included his brilliantly conceived duo for the instrument, Viola, viola. First up, though, was Bach's Brandenburg Concerto no.6, unusual in its low-lying scoring of two violas and a cello alongside two violas da gamba and a violone. Here Paul Silverthorne and Edward Vanderspar took the solo parts in a dazzling performance. The ensemble was all one could ask for, performing with an impeccable lightness of touch and warmly rounded sound.
Viola, viola was commissioned by Takemitsu for the 1997 opening of the 1,600-seat Tokyo Opera City. Benjamin's challenge was to fill the concert hall with the sound of just two violas, and in this he surpasses all expectations: at times it is impossible to believe that this incredibly big sound is coming from only two instruments. Each shadows the other, from percussive spread chords to spectral, creeping harmonics. Silverthorne and Vanderspar played as one: complex, shifting rhythms were all perfectly timed to bring this dynamic and dazzling piece to life.