Violin Concerto

James MacMillan (1959)

Violin Concerto 2009

2.2.corA.2.1.dbn- tree/vibraslap/SD/2Chinese gliss gongs-pft-strings

1) Dance
2) Song
3) Song and Dance

The first movement begins with a short, punchy refrain motive, which kicks of a fast, jerky principal theme on solo violin. This is followed fairly swiftly by the other main idea – a high, floating singing line, with murmuring accompaniment. These three main elements form the main thrust of development thereafter. However, the music takes a significant detour into an energetic Scottish reel, before the natural development is resumed and concluded.

The second movement begins with a simple, expressive melody on oboe, which is then taken up by the strings as the solo violin moves into a highly embellished counter-material. This becomes the main characteristic of the soloist’s activity in this central movement. The other main accompaniment idea is a series of simple chords, all of different lengths, fitted in to a pliable dyadic rhythm. As the two themes are varied in a series of episodes, the music again takes an unexpected shift – where the solo part is marked semplice, child-like, folksy, dancing. Based on a hazy, remembered amalgam of old Irish tunes, this section is a memory of childhood. These main elements are developed and subsequently juxtaposed, but it is this simple melody that has the last word, in a virtuosic passage for the soloist.

The third movement is a combination of the two concepts in the earlier movements; song, and dance. The music has the physical energy of the first, but some of the singing quality of the second, while introducing a new feeling of burlesque. There is some spoken material too (in German). A series of metric modulations take the music into new territory with heightened vigour, and with a growing sense of abandon. The middle section is a waltz based on the lyrical, plainsong-inflected slow material from earlier in the piece. A final detour, at the resumed speech, takes the music to a tragic outburst, leading to an unaccompanied cadenza for the soloist. A brief codetta brings the work to a full stop. The work is dedicated to Vadim Repin and in memoriam Ellen MacMillan (1935- 2008).

James MacMillan, 2010

(This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer)


Third movement contains a fragment of text in German (by the composer), which should be spoken by voices from the orchestra, on or off stage. If this is not possible the text may be spoken by a single voice

12.5.10 Barbican Hall, London: Vadim Repin/London Symphony Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
24/25/26.2.11 Philadelphia, USA: Vadim Repin/Philadelphia Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
1.3.11 Carnegie Hall, New York, USA: Vadim Repin/Philadelphia Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
22.7.11 Montpellier, France: Vadim Repin/Ensemble orchestral de Paris/Joseph Swensen
20/21.4.12 Valladolid, Spain: Vadim Repin/Castilla-León Symphonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
25.4.12 Theatre des Champs-Elysess, Paris, France: Vadim Repin/Ensemble orchestral de Paris/Joseph Swensen
28.4.12 Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands: Vadim Repin/Radio Kamer Filharmonie/James MacMillan
4.5.12 Metz, France: Vadim Repin/Orchestre National de Lorraine/Jacques Mercier
29.6.12 Tokyo, Japan: Akiko Suwanai/NHK Symphony Orchestra /James MacMillan
28/29/30.11.12 Geneva, Switzerland: Vadim Repin/Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Kazuki Yamada
3.8.13 BBC Proms, London: Vadim Repin/BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Donald Runnicles
31.10.13 Copenhagen, Denmark: Akiko Suwanai/Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra/Joshua Weilerstein
10.2.14 Philharmonie, Luxembourg: Vadim Repin/Solistes Européens/Christoph König
6.2.15 Belgrade, Serbia: Vadim Repin/Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra/Gabriel Feltz
14/15.3.15 St Louis, USA: Vadim Repin/St. Louis Symphony Orchestra/David Robertson
3/4.3.16 City Halls, Glasgow: Vadim Repin/BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Donald Runnicles
3rd cor anglais
2nd contrabassoon
vibraphone, whip, 2 congas, bass drum, crotales, marimba, bell tree, vibraslap, side drum, 2 Chinese gliss gongs