Thomas Simaku’s new work à2 for violin and cello is to be performed by members of the Kreutzer Quartet on Sunday, 22 March at 3pm. This afternoon’s concert features Simaku’s work alongside Schubert’s Overture, his C Major String Quartet and Spohr’s String Sextet. A pre-concert talk will take place at 2.30 as is entitled: ‘Moments of bliss brighten this dark life’ (Schubert), which explores Schubert’s chamber music. More information can be found on the Wilton’s website. To purchase tickets: Bookings: 020 7702 2789 or book online. Tickets: £10 Time: 2.30pm free pre concert talk, concert starts at 3pm, Date: Sunday 22nd March.
Thomas Simaku, a2 for violin & cello (world première), Dedicated to Peter Sheppard Skærved and Neil Heyde. This music was composed during my DAAD residency in Berlin in October — November 2007. If I were to describe it in one sentence, I would say that it is based on the idea of ‘two things seen/heard as one’.
a2 (a due) is a well-known term to musicians; it is often found in orchestral scores indicating a given passage that is to be played by two instruments of the same family. Although violin and cello could well be regarded as ‘first cousins’ of the string family, the literal implementation of the term a2 as a ‘compositional strategy’ would have been too much (!) for a piece of chamber music consisting of no more than two players. Not surprisingly, this never happens in this work; in fact, the opposite is true: regardless of how it appears on paper (i.e. on one or two staves), the music for each instrument is constantly based on two layers.
This musical ‘interpretation’ of the title gives an indication as to how the textural format of the piece operates. However, this was by no means the only thought that ‘preoccupied’ my mind whilst composing this music. Berlin made a profound impression on me. The remnants of the wall in Bernauer Straße and the cobbled two-stone line tracing the wall across where it once stood — a clear reminder of what not so long ago there were two different worlds in one city — provoked a strikingly dramatic effect. Border, death-strip, killing, and escape to freedom had a particularly evocative resonance, especially of the time when I lived for three years in a remote town in Southern Albania right at the border with Greece. There, there was a nameless road whose destination the authorities did not want you to know, but the locals called it the ‘death-road’.
In no way programmatic, in this context, the extra-musical dimension of the principal idea is very much part of the piece. Here, the musical and extra-musical interpretations cannot easily be separated, for they are two parts of the same thing: a2.As if to add another dimension to this idea, there are two versions of this piece: for viola & cello and violin & cello. The first version was premièred by Garth Knox and Rohan de Saram at the 2008 Intrasonus Festival in Venice.