This Viola Concerto was specifically commissioned by the CSO. Chris had expressed a particular fondness for the viola, given its range mirrors that of the human voice, and admiration of Serenity Thurlow’s particular performing style.
The first of the Concerto’s three movements opens briskly, the soloist announcing a jaunty main theme that gives way to a lyrical secondary theme heralded by the woodwind. The development and interplay of these two themes, together with a recurrent “leave” motif (both musical and physical), provides the material for the movement as a whole.
The introspective, sparser-textured middle movement, seldom rising above an mf (moderately loud) dynamic marking, incorporates sweeping scalic passages within an overall sonic tableau of resigned – but restless – repose.
The final movement, built on thrusting rhythmic foundations, features abrupt colour changes and provides for some vigorous, unaccompanied solo work-outs. Following a full orchestral climax, the soloist is allowed the brief, last word.
Performed by Serenity Thurlow (viola) and Christchurch Symphony Orchestra/ Benjamin Northey. Recorded 12 March 2016 at the Air Force Museum, Wigram by RNZ Concert.