By Hugh Morris
Lawrence Power’s ten lockdown commissions aim to breathe life into venues currently starved of their vital lifeblood. Filmed around some of the UK’s most iconic musical settings, Power combines a breaking of silence with a much more established goal – to strengthen the viola repertoire by inviting composers to write for him.
In his hands, the viola can tell jokes (in Gerald Barry’s recent concerto) or bare an anguished soul (Turnage’s On Opened Ground). Here, Cassandra Miller’s ‘Daylonging, Slacktide’ forges a very different path, remembering a Georgian traditional song project silenced by lockdown.
The film opens with Power alone on one of Suffolk’s shingle beaches, casting Pärt-like murmurs out to sea. Miller describes being ‘like a sailboat at sea with no wind’ during lockdown, a feeling that we can all relate to and, as Power moves into Snape Maltings’ main hall, this energy continues with Power gently singing an ascending sequence of numbers. The audio-visual project halted by Covid involved Miller and soprano Juliet Fraser tracing and transforming the song of two recently reunited brothers, a feature that transfers directly into the viola writing. Whether singing and accompanying, double-stopped passages or echoes of previous material, there’s always a sense of company that gives ‘Daylonging, Slacktide’ a real warmth.
Power’s remarkable cantabile playing is spotless, sacrificing none of the tone quality or projection as he moves into the high harmonics. There’s additional beauty in the direction too; Jessie Rodger’s careful, unfussy shots are particularly successful in the evocative landscape around the Maltings. The production is a real gem, closer to a piece of art film than a standard commission. Look out for six further commissions in the coming weeks.
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