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Thea Musgrave

Publisher: Novello & Co

Viola Concerto (1973)
commissioned by the BBC for a Promenade Concert
Novello & Co Ltd
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
23 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)

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Programme Note
Thea Musgrave Viola Concerto (1973)
This work was commissioned by the BBC. The first performance was by the Scottish National Orchestra, at a BBC Promenade Concert in the Royal Albert Hall in 1973, with the composer conducting and with Peter Mark (solo viola).

Many of Musgrave's orchestral works have been written in what she has called dramatic-abstract forms; dramatic because players are sometimes called upon to carry out a more theatrical role, and abstract because there is no programme. The form is quite different in each of these works but technically they do have certain things in common. For in order to underline the dramatic nature of certain solo parts, the players at times play independently from the conductor, so they have the same kind of rhythmic freedom as they would in a virtuosic cadenza or lyrical rubato. This meant finding a notation that allows the synchronization of events simply and practically, leaving the players free to concentrate on presenting their lines in an uninhibited way.

The Viola Concerto explores the dramatic interplay of the solo viola with different small orchestral groups, and, equally important, the relationship of the soloist with his colleagues in the viola section. To this end, the viola section is seated where the lst violins normally sit, thus focussing attention on them right from the start.

The opening tutti forms the framework to the whole work. It is often loud and characterized by sharp jagged chords or whirling passages with chattering wind and brass. But there are also softer moments as when the soloist makes his entry, and later when there is a cantabile line accompanied by softly undulating horns.

There are two central episodes where the soloist is heard in combination with two small orchestral groups; an unconducted soft lyrical section when the viola solo is accompanied by the flute, bass clarinet and harp, and later a grotesque scherzo with the bassoon, lst cello and lst double bass. During this scherzo the orchestral violas become increasingly restive and finally break out with an impassioned declamation. They are dramatically interrupted by a solo trombone. The soloist then joins the violas, and leads them to a brief recapitulation and coda.

  • 27 MAY 1998
    Composer Of The Week
    Radio 3 Composer of the Week
    Thea Musgrave, conductor

    Other Dates:
    6 August 2002 - Radio 3 Composer of the Week
  • 06 OCT 1995
    Peabody Symphony
    Richard Field, Viola; Thea Musgrave, conductor
  • 25 AUG 1991
    BBC Radio 3
    Paul Colletti, Viola; Thea Musgrave, conductor
  • 20 JAN 1991
    BBC Scotland Recording
    BBC SO
    Paul Silverthorne, Viola; James Loughran, conductor
  • 19 FEB 1988
    Corn Exchange Barbican, London
    BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Paul Silverthorne, Viola; James Loughran, conductor

    Other Dates:
    20 February - Barbican Centre, London
  • 02 JAN 1985
    California, US
    San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
    Geraldine Walther, Viola; Thea Musgrave, conductor

    Other Dates:
    3,4 January - California, US
  • 04 JUN 1983
    Cullen Auditorium University of Houston, Texas
    Texas Chamber Orchestra
    Nobuko Imai, Viola; Thea Musgrave, conductor
  • 01 JUN 1983
    Dutch Radio Orchestra
    Michael Samson, Viola; Kenneth Montgomery, conductor
  • 29 JUN 1975
    BBC Repeat
    Scottish National Orchestra
    Thea Musgrave, conductor
  • 26 APR 1975
    Pasadena, California, US
    Pasadena Symphony Orchestra
    Daniel Lewis, conductor
  • 06 FEB 1975
    Free Trade Hall, Manchester, UK
    James Loughran, conductor
  • 10 JAN 1975
    BBC Recording, UK
    BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Peter Mark, viola; Thea Musgrave, conductor
  • 20 DEC 1974
    Usher Hall, Edinburgh, UK
    Scottish National Orchestra
    Peter Mark, viola; Thea Musgrave, conductor

    Other Dates:
    21 December - City Hall, Glasgow, UK
  • 13 AUG 1973
    BBC Proms 1973
    Royal Albert Hall, London
    Scottish National Orchestra
    Peter Mark, viola; Thea Musgrave, conductor

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