An Eventful Morning in East London - 21st Century Violin Concertos, a new CD of contemporary violin concertos on Nimbus Records, performed by Harriet Mackenzie, Ken Woods and the English Symphony Orchestra has had four excellent reviews since the international release this month, all of them praising the performances and works generously.
Richard Morrison in The Times gave the CD 5 stars, and said of my concerto An Eventful Morning Near East London:
The recording’s title is a tease. An Eventful Morning in East London is the name (almost) of Rob Fokkens’s violin concerto, one of five 21st-century concertos played by the indefatigably adventurous violinist Harriet Mackenzie on this superb release. However, although Mackenzie is a Londoner, Fokkens is South African. So his East London,in the Eastern Cape, is 6,000 miles south of Shoreditch.
His concerto reflects it too. Fokkens has Charles Ives’s ability to enrich his own imaginatively orchestrated style with “found” music — in this case an outdoor African soundscape that seems to incorporate a passing funeral procession replete with snatches of Dies Irae as well as a jazz band.
That makes for a fascinating 13 minutes. Yet it’s just one highlight on an album mixing the work of two older composers — Paul Patterson and David Matthews (composer) — working in a generally tonal idiom with the quirky new generation, represented by Fokkens, Emily Doolittle and Deborah Pritchard. What unites them is an ability to create something fresh out of existing material.
In the July edition of BBC Music Magazine, Kate Wakeling gives the performance four stars and says:
Rob Fokkens' single movement concerto is exquisitely crafted.. complex counterpoint, bustling percussion, and thrillingly stratospheric scoring for violin soloist performed with panache and precision by the excellent Harriet Mackenzie...
Writing for new music website Composition Today, Christian Morris reviews the work as follows:
The title of Fokkens’ exhilarating and colourful An Eventful Morning Near East London refers not to the UK, but a ‘cattle-infested stretch of the N2 motorway between East London and Umtata’ in the composer’s native South Africa. It is possible that this was an intentional play on words—Fokkens' music often reflects the tension of being a South African abroad. It opens in the stratospheric upper regions of the violin, played with extraordinary control by Mackenzie, before outlining a lugubrious procession that leads to a peroration of Sacre–esque energy.
Full review here: http://www.compositiontoday.com/blog/448.asp
And finally Lynn Rene Bayley on The Art Music Lounge says of the piece:
An Eventful Morning Near East London, by Robert Fokkens, has the violin entering, and staying, in the extreme upper range of the instrument for some time. The opening note is a D-flat (or C-sharp) in alt, and she goes up from there. Moreover, the strings in the orchestra have similarly perilous lines to play. Eventually the rather calm opening becomes more agitated, and Fokkens creates some particularly interesting textures in the orchestral part behind her. It becomes busier and more bizarre as it goes along, yet holds the listener’s imagination by its sheer variety and quality of sound. Except for the fact that it has a more regular pulse, it almost sound like something that Leif Segerstam would have written! Eventually Mackenzie comes down in pitch to play some wavering drones on her instrument, which then lead to a brief but genuine melodic line, backed by soft chords played by low clarinets. This is a truly fascinating piece, indeed the highlight of this album.
Full review here: https://artmusiclounge.wordpress.com/2017/06/05/harriet-mackenzies-wonderland-of-new-works/