On March 11 Lawrence Power premiered I cannot love without trembling, Cassandra Miller’s new viola concerto, at Studio 4, Flagey in Brussels. New Yorker music critic Alex Ross said of the piece

A major new work…it demands to be heard…At first hearing — and at second, and at third — the results are immensely beautiful and immensely haunting.

Ilan Volkov, a consistent champion of Miller’s music, conducted the Brussels Philharmonic in the 25-minute piece. Their performance is available to stream here. Lawrence Power gives the first UK performances of I cannot love without trembling on 4 May and 5 May in Glasgow and Edinburgh, with John Storgårds conducting the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

I cannot love without trembling was co-commissioned by BBC Radio 3, Brussels Philharmonic, Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, and Scottish Chamber Orchestra, supported by The Viola Commissioning Circle. It takes its title from the writings of Simone Weil and draws on the music-making of Epirot violinist Alexis Zoumbas, who left his mountainous homeland in Greece for the United States. Recordings of his improvised, lamenting moiroloi, the funeral music associated with the women of Epirus, is another creative impetus for the work.  

It is cast in one unbroken span with five sections (four verses with a concluding cadenza), each one titled after a quotation from Weil: ‘To love purely is to consent to distance’; ‘I cannot love without trembling’; ‘Buried deep under the sound of his own lamentations is the pearl of the silence of God’; ‘Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer’; ‘Stars and blossoming fruit trees: Utter permanence and extreme fragility give an equal sense of eternity’.

Classique Mais Pas Has Been (Soline Heurtebise) 16 March 2023

The audience seems enthralled by Miller’s music…ethereal, heavy with darkness and yet sunlit. The high notes resemble the tears of women, the wind that caresses the houses on the plains.