London Triumph for ESO’s “Wall of Water” Debut


The ESO’s October 18th performance at LSO St Luke’s in London was a triumph with the public and critics alike.
Harriet Mackenzie at work in Maggi Hamnbling’s studio

The concert featured the world premiere of Deborah Pritchard’s new Violin Concerto, Wall of Water, based on the paintings of Maggi Hambling, which were projected during the performance. Harriet Mackenzie was the violin soloist. The programme also included the UK premieres of Kaija Saariaho’s “Terra memoria” and Emily Doolittle’s “falling still,” and a performance of Thea Musgrave’s “Green.” The concert was supported by Arts Council England and the commission of Wall of Water was co-funded by the Britten Pears Foundation.


The ESO will return to London for a second performance of Wall of Water at the National Gallery on January 30th.Details and booking information here. 


The Critical Response:

“In the event, Wall of Water proved to be an uncommonly interesting work.. the main sections of the work are superbly judged in terms of consolidation, unity and contrasts…Mackenzie returned for the first work in the second half, Emily Doolittle’s falling still, a haunting study inspired by the sounds of the natural world… Her’s is a very beautiful work, the shortest of the evening’s pieces, drawing the attentive listener in such as way as to invite – if not demand – quiet contemplation and sympathy. In many ways, this was the most purely musical work presented here, which also received what must have been an exemplary performance… Finally, a work by the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, Terra memoria, which opens and closes as a study in pianissimo, but which, as the music’s events unfold, continues to present aspects of quite simple ideas which are developed and threaded in enthralling fashion…. Throughout this absorbing concert, one must pay tribute to the players’ musicianship, self-evidently as one in their desire to do their best, and to Kenneth Woods, whose skill and undemonstrative mastery of the music was a joy to behold.”

Robert Matthew-Walker, Classical Source


“As the projected paintings merge into one another, Pritchard offers a number of angles on this seascape, presenting the new perspectives with the aid of an enchanting harmonic palette. Her use of the violin is atmospheric, utilising passages of hazy incantation and searing virtuosity to unfold the narrative. Soloist Harriet Mackenzie gave a commanding performance, her direct sound matching the energy and bold colours of the paintings behind her. The luminous brilliance of her upper range was particularly effective in the more involved central section, as art and composition alike introduced new colours. With a tight structure, beguiling harmonies and a fantastical atmosphere, this concerto reveals Pritchard to have an innate talent for pacing and drama….”

Katy Wright, BachTrack


“Set against recent paintings, Walls of Water, by Maggie Hambling, projected behind the players, it makes an indelible impression of heartfelt emotions, genuinely expressed in a broadly tonal idiom. The second cadenza could have been written by Mendelssohn. But this is not derivative music. It contains an ability to reach out to an audience without patronising it with easy sounds or intentions. But it is memorable and such an attribute is hard to achieve with success no matter what the choice of musical language is made…This is a lovely, elegiac work with a beauty all of its own. This in no way disparages Hambling’s marvellous large scale images, so full of dynamic movement and restrained colour….  Mackenzie was a willing collaborator in bringing this violin concert to our attention. She poured a beauty of tone into the labyrinth of sound that the audience is drawn into in what is an ambitious work, full of nuances and colours. It is also a work that makes demands of considerable virtuosity on the part of the soloist and Mackenzie has a formidable technique that was put to best purpose inprojecting the music into the hearts and minds of the listeners. All the works heard were done full justice by Kenneth Woods and his fine group of players. He is a conductor who polishes and refines the works under his baton so that each work at this concert was heard to best possible effect.”

Edward Clark, Musical Opinion