Whilst writing the programme notes for the last concert to contain a commission written for OOTS’ 21st Anniversary season – Viola and Double-Bass Take Centre Stage! – I had a brief email conversation with composer Julian Philips: who has produced an immensely beautiful work, Ballades Concertantes, for solo viola, double-bass and chamber orchestra, as a companion piece to Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf’s Sinfonia Concertante for Double-Bass and Viola.
The words which follow are all Julian’s; the musical excerpts are the first lines of each of the four Machaut Ballades that inspired him.
Ballades Concertantes developed out of an engagement with two different historical traditions – the late-fourteenth-century Ballade of Guillaume de Machaut, and the later eighteenth-century sinfonia concertante, as developed by Haydn, Mozart or Dittersdorf. Machaut, because my recent opera The Tale of Januarie – based on Chaucer’s The Merchant’s Tale – had engaged with late medieval music; and the music of Machaut – who was the great figure of his day, and very much known to Chaucer – was still in the air. The sinfonia concertante, because David and the orchestra were keen to celebrate their twenty-first anniversary by reviving a form which gives solo spots to individual orchestral players. In this case, the viola and double-bass.