'Cello Concerto' at BBC Proms

Daily Telegraph (Ivan Hewett)
"Fitkin's way of keeping us in suspense can yield pathos as well as wit. At the beginning Yo-Yo Ma sustained just one note for what seemed an eternity, while giant string chords wheeled around him. Then little by little, the cello found its voice and its energy, an awakening which Yo-Yo Ma projected brilliantly. Line turned into leaping dance, with the orchestra under David Robertson's agile direction in hot pursuit."

Musical America (Keith Clarke)
"It is Fitkin's great achievement here to write predominantly slow, quiet music that is far from static, his sure sense of shape and feel for orchestral color providing a first-class addition to the repertoire for cello and orchestra. The piece is much more conversational than many concertos, the orchestra not so much accompanying or providing a backdrop but constantly engaging in a musical discourse.  It is immensely subtle, unshowy and was perfectly judged in this first performance."

Bachtrack (Nahoko Gotoh)
"It is always exciting to witness the birth of a new piece of composition, all the more so when the soloist is the inimitable Yo-Yo Ma. GrahamFitkin’s new Cello Concerto, a BBC commission, was perfectly tailored for this amazing cellist: Fitkin explained prior to the concert how he collaborated closely with Ma and how sometimes the cellist would make creative suggestions which would be reflected in the work. The resulting work, as Fitkin himself admits, is darker and bleaker than his usual works, and less rhythm-driven in order to highlight the lyrical qualities of Yo-Yo Ma’s playing.

In one continuous movement, the concerto begins atmospherically with a long sustained B-flat note on the cello, seeming to suggest a lone character keeping a distance from the world around him. The orchestra makes their statement, but it is clearly at odds with the cello and this emotional discord runs throughout the concerto. At times the cello and the orchestra move closer, but they come to a head in the middle section and ultimately the work concludes as it began on a sustained cello note. There were some interesting orchestral sonorities from muted trumpets, harps and vibraphones. I could sense that Fitkin was being very cautious – perhaps too cautious – about his orchestral writing not overwhelming the soloist, and overall it was successful although it will perhaps work better performed in a less grand space. Yo-Yo Ma performed with total commitment and his trademark finesse and the orchestra, under the astute conducting of David Robertson, responded with fine playing all around."

Classical Source (Richard Whitehouse)
"While not a newcomer to the Proms, Graham Fitkin has not been represented by anything so substantial as the Cello Concerto written for Yo-Yo Ma – its 30-minute span pitting its soloist against sizable but, for the most part, sparingly used forces. The austere opening bars build tension gradually, arriving at a rocking motion which admits of greater emotion en route to the initial climax whose impetus holds good through an intensification of this section – culminating in a climax of rhythmic unisons hammered out by the orchestra against the imploring soloist. From here, tension subsides to a recall of the rocking motion, now suffused with greater melodic directness as the music returns to its introspective origins and a sense of finality not so much tragic as fatalistic in import. All very coherent and considered in its drawing on aspects of the post-minimalist idiom associated with Fitkin, while opening-out its expressive range with discreetly applied rhetoric. By turns thoughtful and incisive, Ma was in his element throughout and this is one new concerto he should certainly consider adding to his repertoire."