Viola, Viola


Program Note

Viola, Viola was commissioned by the Tokyo Opera City Cultural Foundation of which the Aritstic Director was Toru Takemitsu for the opening of the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall on 16 September 1997. I was naturally eager to respond to this proposal from my late much-lamented friend Toru Takemitsu. The idea of a viola duo for his friends Yuri Bashmet and Nobuko Imai was entirely his. My initial thoughts of how to solve the many compositional problems inherent within this most unconventional medium may have suggested the viola’s accustomed role as a melancholy voice hidden in the shadows. However, once under way, a completely different instrumental character – fiery and energetic – imposed itself. My desire at times was to conjure an almost orchestral depth and variety of sound. This accounts for the fact that the two viola parts are virtually braided together – indeed, clearly independent lines only begin to flower towards the work’s cantabile centre. The implied harmony is intended to be as sonorous as possible, the texture sometimes maintaining four or more parts for sustained periods.

About George Benjamin

Born in 1960, George Benjamin began composing at the age of seven. In 1976 he entered the Paris Conservatoire to study with Messiaen, after which he worked with Alexander Goehr…