Antoine Tamestit has a clear mission: to make the audience fall in love with the viola – its possibilities, its soundworld, and its repertoire.
His 2019/20 Artist Portrait opens with Jörg Widmann’s whimsical Viola Concerto. Written specifically for Tamestit’s technique and personality, it makes full use of the deep friendship between composer and performer; it confidently and deftly plays with the concerto experience as we know it, questions it by stretching its concept to the limit but never desecrates it.
Berio’s Voci explores a different dimension of the instrument’s performative potential by making use of the viola’s voice-like tessitura – it sings of the sounds of Sicily and echoes the memories of folk tunes that inspired it.
The Artist Portrait will culminate in Walton’s Viola Concerto, a piece that is at the core of Tamestit’s approach to the instrument – to him, it was the first piece that really understood the possibilities of the viola. It was also the first piece he played with the LSO in 2011: ‘I still remember seeing the LSO players out of the corner of my eye not looking at their scores but at the conductor, Pappano, and at me. They knew the piece inside out. I felt like I had dreamt of exactly this quality of sound and then, finally, it was there.’
Tamestit will complement the three orchestral concerts at the Barbican with thematically-related chamber concerts at LSO St Luke’s, performed with some of his closest friends and collaborators over the years.