March and April saw Anders Hillborg’s Viola Concerto receive its Swedish and Swiss premieres with soloist Lawrence Power. Power, who gave the world premiere of the work in 2021, joined the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Omer Meir Wellber on 30 March and Domingo Hindoyan and Sinfonieorchester Basel on 19 April.

“With the viola, there’s a tradition of sad, “lachrymae” music. My idea was to do the complete opposite”, writes Hillborg. Power wanted to commission a work that brought out its heroic qualities rather than elegiac aspects. The concerto is bookended by two ‘Rage’ sections in which the solo viola opens with furious, insistent semiquavers. Elsewhere Hillborg also asks the orchestra’s string players to strike their instruments with bamboo sticks for a rough col legno sound. The 20-minute concerto has more chamber-like dimensions than some of Hillborg’s larger orchestral works. Special use is made of the soprano saxophone, an instrument Hillborg has spotlighted several times in his work, whose lines often double the solo viola in an idiosyncratic mix of timbres.

A cleverly put-together showpiece which both begins and ends with anger…In between there is stillness and calm, elusive woodwinds…and rhythmic passages where bamboo sticks clatter against the strings… [there are] delicious Hillborg-esque sound effects where string glissandi suggest electronics…[and] a vibrato that makes the viola sound like a theremin.

Dagens Nyheter (Johanna Paulsson), 31 March 2023

The Viola Concerto was commissioned by Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, with co-commissioners Hessicherrundfunk; NTR ZaterdagMatinee, NPO Radio 4’s concert series in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw; Sveriges Radios Symfoniorkester; Sinfonieorchester Basel; and Aspen Music Festival and School, Robert Spano, Music Director, supported by The Viola Commissioning Circle.

In March 2022 the Viola Concerto received its Dutch premiere at the Concertgebouw with Power and Osmo Vänskä, who conducted the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. Manze will return to the work with Lawrence Power in June with the Dresden Philharmonic at the Kulturpalast. On 11 May Power gives the German premiere of the work with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, with Jukka-Pekka Saraste conducting at the Alte Oper.