The British premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s violin concerto brought a captivating performance from Josefowicz, backed by a superbly reinvigorated orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen, much admired in Britain as a conductor, is less known as a composer. This is perhaps why the Violin Concerto he wrote in 2009 as a kind of long goodbye to the LA Phil, and which won the 2012 Grawemeyer award for music composition, has taken until now to receive its British premiere.
The wait may, though, have more to do with the schedule of Leila Josefowicz, the extraordinary Canadian virtuoso for whom the part was written. The solo part is relentless, with barely a bar’s respite from string-crossing figurations that require an expressive spectrum that ranges from brooding intensity to carefree nonchalance. Indeed, the work begins in an almost throwaway manner, but prodding entries from vibraphone and harp disturb the equilibrium and the passagework acquires an increasingly desperate character.