Review of the ‘Mass Viola Ensemble’. 12 January 2014

Alistair Rutherford  (1st year student at Birmingham Conservatoire) writes about the Mass Viola Ensemble, which concluded  Birmingham Conservatoire’s Viola day on the 12th January 20 4

Birmingham Conservatoire’s Viola day on the 12th January kick started the year off with an exciting day full of all things viola.

The day culminated in a mass viola ensemble in the recital hall where what seemed like the whole viola population of Britain played through classical and folk repertoire for viola ensemble. With Pizzipeezy, a piece as crazy as it’s title, parts were split into 4 viola lines which filled the room with fantastic percussive viola sounds. Energetic and lively, the piece started to take a musical shape after a momentary scrabble for notes at the start and gave an impressive full of life play through. The visiting tutor Błażej Maliszewski got into the swing of things and took the opportunity to show off his prowess with improvisation whilst Dr Louise  Lansdown tried to give musical ideas to the ensemble.

After the percussive Pizzipeezy was played we then headed in a folky direction and played arrangements by Ross Cohen of the fantastic Absolute Zero Viola Quartet. Playing through more lyrical folk tunes  enabled  players of all abilities to contribute to the  rich viola tone produced by at least 50 different players!

Although we had a whole day packed full of viola, viola and more viola,  the feeling for the folk musical ideas was interpreted with great style. It is not every day that violists get to play with so many people who play the same instrument,  let alone playing the same pieces in the same room. With this in mind it was a very impressive show of passion and enthusiasm for the instrument that has been named instrument of the year 2014 by Berlin.  This will  help  challenge some common prejudices and misconceptions made about the instrument by showcasing its diversity, repertoire and range.

The whole viola day was a great tribute to the makers, players and teachers of what is THE superlative instrument.