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VC BLOG | Violinist Madeleine Mitchell - "Importance of Continually Commissioning New Works” [BLOG]

In a VC-exclusive blog, British violinist Madeleine Mitchell talks us through why she feels it's imperative to continually set challenges for living composers

The Violin Channel recently caught up with British violinist Madeleine Mitchell - on the eve of the release of her new album 'Violin Muse', featuring the world-premiere recording release of 8 new violin works.

In a VC-exclusive blog, the Royal College of Music violin faculty member talks us through the inspiration and idea behind her new disc - and why she feels it's imperative for musicians to continually set new challenges for living composers. 


“Over the past few years I’ve premiered several violin works written for me by established UK composers, with both orchestra and with piano, making an interesting collection to record. These range from the Violin Concerto Soft Stillness by Welsh composer Guto Puw, inspired by lines of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (written in 2014, the 450th anniversary of the bard’s birth), to the work I commissioned from David Matthews (formerly Britten’s assistant) - Romanza with piano or string orchestra. There are also three pieces for violin and piano in a lyrical vein written for me as gifts: Rhapsody by Geoffrey Poole, Aurea Luce (beauteous light) by Sadie Harrison and a short piece Michael Nyman composed for the opening of my Red Violin festival in Cardiff in 2007, called Taking it as Read.

To complete the album there were two further unrecorded works by composers I know well - Veilleuse (Night Watch) by Michael Berkeley, and a violin duo collection by Judith Weir (Master of the Queen’s Music) called Atlantic Drift, celebrating the flow of traditional music between the British Isles and North America. Having been Fulbright/ITT Fellow to the US from the UK, this felt very appropriate and created a good mix of timbres.

I’d previously made an album of popular pieces, Violin Songs for the Vermont-based British label Divine Art, who’ve just celebrated 25 years, and CEO Stephen Sutton was keen to take my new collection of premiere recordings. They released Matthews’ Romanza, recorded at the Royal College of Music (where pianist Nigel Clayton and I are professors), as a digital single prelude to the album in 2016.  The title Violin Muse was proposed since most of the works were written for me (I now have a collection of over 30 works!) and the violin itself has been such a fascinating inspiration to composers as well as painters and poets.

I think working with living composers and recording their works is such an important part of being a musician, in order to continue broadening the repertoire and pushing boundaries in the classical music world. By commissioning composers to write pieces for me, I am able to play a positive role in the future of the contemporary music world whilst building my own library of repertoire. It’s great to be able to develop a piece with a composer, to have a dialogue as I have and it also refreshes one’s approach to the composers no longer with us, which I also love to perform.  I also believe that contemporary music should be heard beyond the premiere, thus touring and recording these works allows them to be heard time and time again and hopefully established into the violin repertoire for other musicians to perform.  

With thanks to the Arts Council of Wales, Vaughan Williams Trust, composers and patrons for supporting this major project.



Track previews available now on Amazon:

Violin Muse

Madeleine Mitchell & Cerys Jones

Nigel Clayton, Piano

Edwin Outwater, Conductor

BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Release Date: October 20, 2017

Divine Art

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