Danny Elfman's Violin Concerto 'Eleven Eleven' has received its long-awaited UK premiere, with performances in Edinburgh and Glasgow on 29 and 30 November 2019 by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, with soloist and dedicatee Sandy Cameron, conducted by John Mauceri. They formed part of a full-evening Danny Elfman Gala programme that also included extended suites from his film scores to Alice in Wonderland, Edward Scissorhands and Batman, and a scintillating encore of The Simpsons theme tune.
'… the music went a long way to justifying Mauceri’s extravagant boasts of the composer’s talent… the slow movement has a lovely operatic beginning and there is something glorious about the wryly reverential scampering opening to the finale. In Cameron it has an advocate whose unique style may make performances by other violinists a considerable challenge…'
The Herald (Keith Bruce), 2 December 2019
'Elfman has an almost miraculous way of conjuring up the grotesque and the poignant, encapsulated most brilliantly in music from his score to Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands, which the RSNO dispatched with just the icy gracefulness it calls for in its all-Elfman concert under conductor John Mauceri…(Cameron) was a remarkable advocate, playing with utter conviction, as well as stunning technique and clarity, and prancing nimbly around the stage as she did so.'
The Scotsman (David Kettle), 2 December 2019
'…a four-movement work performed with bouncy, boogying verve by the violinist Sandy Cameron… Elfman delivers striking colours — solo violin against untuned percussion; sparse string phrases falling away to the thud of a bass drum— without ever quite breaking into the indelible melody that his reputation, possibly unfairly, led one to expect.'
The Spectator (Richard Bratby), 5 December 2019
Cameron's appearances followed in the wake of her acclaimed performances given in October with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and JoAnn Falletta:
'Like any great composer, however, Elfman’s signature style is unmistakably his own. For fans of Elfman’s iconic Halloween accented film scores – "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "Beetlejuice," "Sleepy Hollow," "Edward Scissorhands" – all of his trademark effects, like quirky melodies, hauntingly beautiful harmonies, menacing low brass blasts, bone-rattling cackles from mallet percussion and plucked strings, were on full display. With classical and chamber commissions ranging from Carnegie Hall to Cirque du Soleil to the Berlin Philharmonic, Elfman’s days as merely a film composer may be limited.In the hands of the stunningly gifted Cameron, Elfman’s concerto has all the championing it needs. Cameron’s dynamic stage presence and dancer-like physicality, along with a piercingly gorgeous tone and effortless upper register playing left the audience stunned. Indeed the best thing one can say about Cameron’s performance is that she didn’t play the work – she owned it. The BPO and Falletta proved ideal collaborators, letting Cameron shine in her solo work but also adding the proper cinematic atmosphere and darkness Elfman’s music required.'The Buffalo News (Leonidas Lagrimas), 18 October 2019
Cameron gives the London premiere of the Violin Concerto with the BBC Concert Orchestra and Bramwell Tovey on 21 April 2020 in the Royal Festival Hall.
Meanwhile, there's been widespread praise for the premiere recording of the 40-minute concerto, out on Sony Classical - courtesy of the same performers:
'Elfman gives his soloist Sandy Cameron plenty to exercise her (they first collaborated on the Cirque du Soleil show "Iris") and the solo writing - not least in the cadenzas (gatecrashed in the motor second movement by the percussion section) - is propulsive and exhilarating. On the flipside of the coin is the darkly lyric minimalism of Shostakovich and I like the composerly way in which Elfman has the soloist emerge from the string oration at the start of the third movement 'Fantasma' (there's a movie-derived title if ever there was one), the four-note idea hooking us like the best film cues do.... the 'trip' is full of incident and the exhilarating climax of the finale shows his prowess and relish for the big gesture but also a deeper instinct by resisting the big finish and returning to the lachrymose beginnings of the piece.'Gramophone (Edward Seckerson), June 2019
The RSNO included the Concerto in their 2019 US tour in March 2019, with their Music Director, Thomas Søndergård, joining Cameron for performances in Tucson and Northridge.
'Behold, a sensation. Her name is Sandy Cameron, she's an American violinist in her 30s and a performer of intoxicating originality... a substantial four-movement work, a full-on fusion of lush late-Romanticism and feverish 20th century rhythmic fire… Luxuriously scored, it also possesses the gold label charisma of film music, tracts of irrepressible lustre and a whopping great cinematic climax. Playing it calls for more than straightforward musicianship; it calls for performance art, which is what Cameron delivered with pinpoint finesse and agility.It was a whole body experience for her. For this was not just a showcase of astonishing violin virtuosity. Every note, every expressive musical nuance, was matched by choreographed body and footwork that was nimble and beguiling, gorgeously balletic one moment, wantonly shimmying the next. RSNO music director Thomas Søndergård crafted the orchestral performance with a galvanising combination of discipline and elan...'The Scotsman (Ken Walton), 1 April 2019
The Violin Concerto and the Piano Quartet (also on the Sony release) were also centre-stage in Paris on 14 and 15 September 2019, part of a Danny Elfman Weekend at the Philharmonie. Cameron and Mauceri were joined by the Brussels Philharmonic, whilst the Berlin Philharmonic Piano Quartet give the European premiere of their commission.
(photo credit: Margaret Malandruccolo)