Auckland based violist Robert Ashworth is out to prove the jokes about the viola don’t stack up when he takes to the stage to perform Anthony Ritchie’s Viola Concerto with the APO on Thursday night.
Ashworth, who made New Zealand home 15 years ago via England and Canada, has been a guest principal viola for the NZSO, Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra and the Melbourne Symphony.
He also performs with the Jade String Quartet in Auckland.
Performing a solo in front of an orchestra could be a “worst nightmare” for many, but Ashworth is relishing the chance to show what he, and his instrument can do.
“It’s a wonderful place to be harmonically speaking,” he says, describing the viola and its role within the orchestra.
“There are moments I have to be on form for [the viola concerto],” he says. “You think you know the tricky bits, but they are still tricky! There’s beautiful melodies soaring effortlessly."
“I find it a pleasure even though it’s a daunting task … to be removed from that front chair … and to present oneself and be in the limelight.”
Ritchie’s Viola Concerto, composed in 1994, has been performed across the globe, and featured on the 2002 CD Viola Aotearoa. The piece is a reflection of human relationships – from turmoil to unification.
Ashworth has spoken to Ritchie previously and hopes he can do the work justice this time around, having first performed it in 2012. “He’s quite drawn to it [the viola]. And is big advocate for it,” he says. “In conversations in the past we’ve discussed how to go about it. He’s a fan of individual interpretation, of what one can give his music.”