In May Michel van der Aa’s dramatic and explosive concerto for violin and cello akin received both its world premiere (at the Philharmonie in Cologne) and its Dutch premiere (at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw). ‘akin’ was written specially for violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Sol Gabetta, giving full expression to their extrovert playing styles. In the composer’s own words, ‘akin was inspired by the friendship between these two very special string players, reflected in the score through their sharing of the same musical material and communication with a similar voice.’
Both performances were well received. Neue Musik Zeitung’s Juan Martin Koch wrote that the world premiere provoked “Great cheers” from the audience in Cologne, and made a favourable comparison with Brahms’s Double Concerto in the way ‘akin’ offers a “portrait of two instruments in harmony”. After the Dutch premiere the next day, NRC’s Joep Christenhusz wrote of “a compelling tension that leads to a blistering battle of strings to the rhythm of pounding toms and sharply striking percussion”, and described the piece as “high quality, vintage Van der Aa”.
Peter Lint, writing for Trouw, also praised the soloists, describing them as excelling “with total dedication to and belief in Van der Aa’s notes”; their “forceful, charged performance and expressive stage presence”, said Christenhusz, “kept the audience on the edge of their seats for half an hour”. Finally, wrote Koch after the German performance, “This piece has what it takes – with appropriately explosive soloists – to enter the repertoire.” (read full reviews)
Canadian performances of ‘akin’ are now on the horizon. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, with soloists Nicholas Wright, violin, and Peter Wispelwey, cello, will give the North American premiere at the Orpheum in Vancouver in June. This will be followed in March 2020 by a performance by Simone Lamsma, violin, Harriet Krijgh, cello, and the NAC Orchestra at the Southam Hall in Ottawa.