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Nigel Keay - Viola Concerto (2000)
  In three movements, duration: 24 minutes.
  1. Largo-Allegro (10'01")
  2. Larghissimo (7'06")
  3. Allegro (6'44
Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes (second doubling cor anglais), 2 clarinets (second doubling bass clarinet), 2 bassoons (second doubling contrabassoon), 2 horns in F, timpani, & strings.

Nigel Keay's Viola Concerto was first performed in its full orchestral version at the 29th International Viola Congress in Wellington on12th April 2001. Chamber orchestra conducted by Marc Taddei with Franck Chevalier as soloist:

Audio of Viola Concerto; First Movement mp3, Second Movement mp3, Third Movement mp3. Recorded by Concert FM, a network of Radio New Zealand logo

Second Movement mp3 Played by Nigel Keay and Jeffrey Grice (version for viola and piano).

Performing materials page; set of the orchestral parts
  From the first notes to the first performance.....

Nigel Keay's Viola Concerto was written between 1999 and 2000. The solo part is heavily influenced by the composer also being a violist (having studied the concerti by William Walton and Béla Bartók, and was developed through a process of composition/improvisation.

The circumstances of the first performance helped shape the orchestration of the Viola Concerto by limiting the orchestra available to those players that would be employed in another work in the same programme - the Paganini Sonata for Grand Viola and Orchestra, for strings, double wind quintet & timpani. Thus, the conception of the Viola Concerto had been somewhat « classical » with an extended lower register in the orchestra (instruments such as the contrabassoon, and bass-clarinet are employed).

The Viola Concerto is in three movements with a total duration of 24 minutes. Each movement grows progressively out of its predecessor with a tendency for the form to become freer as the work progresses. The first movement, being the longest movement at around 10 minutes duration, is based on sonata-form in which the soloist enters after a short 12-bar orchestral introduction containing the principal theme. The second movement is based on variation-form; the soloist immediately states the main melodic theme over a chordal accompaniment then proceeds with ornamented variations on the main theme. The third movement does not follow any specific form, but develops freely in tying together and summing up various harmonic and melodic ideas presented in the first two movements.

Following the classical aesthetics with its larger first movement in sonata-form makes the concerto somewhat “neo-classical”, in conjunction with its neo-tonal harmonic language. The title of “Viola Symphony” was considered for the Viola Concerto, perhaps after the idea behind Britten’s Cello Symphony, indicating the importance of the orchestral material, it being much more than a simple accompaniment. The idea of dialogue between the soloist and the various orchestral instrumentalists (or groups of instruments) is essential to the construction of the work.

The Viola Concerto follows the idea of presenting the soloist as master-musician/animator of, and in dialogue with their ensemble as opposed to having the soloist present a catalogue of technical possibilities on the instrument. Although there are several occasions where the soloist employs double stopping to play out a contrapuntal idea, and some harmonics towards the end of the third movement, the solo part in the main roves melodically over nearly four octaves of its range interweaving its line through the orchestral texture.

A piano reduction was produced for the soloist to rehearse with, and the composer is very grateful to the pianist Jeffrey Grice for his help in refining the piano reduction. The composition of Nigel Keay's Serenade for Strings rapidly followed the completion of this Concerto.

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