Lunchtime Recital at St John’s Church, Spencer Hill, Wimbledon.

Diana Mathews – viola
Jonathan Beatty – piano.

It was a joy to play in this wonderfully resonant acoustic once again; this time with a programme including two premieres.  The UK Premiere of Michael Rose’s Third Viola Sonata ‘The Pedagogy of Grief’ opened the concert, leading us onto the World Premiere of Richard Bullen’s ‘Rite’ for solo viola – the acoustic perfectly suited to this piece. It was exciting to work with Richard – to workshop the first draft and then to see what changes were made by the time we arrived at the final concert version.  York Bowen’s Phantasy, Op. 54 was a spirited finale for the concert.

The Pedagogy of Grief (Third Viola Sonata, 2004)

[audio:|titles=Michael Rose Pedagogy of Grief] [audio:|titles=Richard Bullen Rite]

Notes by Michael Alec Rose:

The lessons of grief are not self-evident.  What we lose can never be redeemed.  Music begins by addressing loss with ritual:  funeral march, lament, elegy.  At some point, such conventions give way to a solitary realm where woe vexes memory, devastation reproaches reconstruction, and the bitter overwhelms the sweet. The work goes on and the terms get reconfigured:  memory reproaches woe, reconstruction vexes devastation, and the sweet undermines the bitter. The heart learns things it never knew till it was shattered.  It seems too much to ask a grieving person to return to a world so utterly depleted of the loved one; but that is precisely what is asked, and that is precisely what is tendered.  This daily, immemorial heroism of human beings is what this single-movement sonata for viola and piano (the most recent of three composed for, and dedicated to, Maria Lambros) celebrates.

The pull between two worlds—the public and the private, the communal and the individual—seems to me to be at the dramatic heart of so much music that I love.  The Pedagogy of Grief (a phrase I found in a terrific book called The Dominion of the Dead, by Robert Harrison) takes its cue from this tradition.  For those of us whose primary pedagogues are Mozart & Co., anything seems possible, particularly the impossible wedding of despair and joy.  Break the glass, then dance.  It is the ancient way of things, and it happens every day.  Look no further for miracles.