Conducting the first public performance of Guirne Creith’s Violin Concerto in July 2009 was, for me, like being a welcome guest at an intimate family affair. Not only were the promoters, Katharine Copisarow and Robin Hunter-Coddington, and the soloist, Tamsin Waley Cohen, relations of the composer but also the audience was full of those who had known her and, it was clear, had all been deeply affected by the experience. Indeed, the sense of love and respect for this extraordinary woman was so tangible that I found myself realizing how fortunate it was that I was largely unaware of it until after the performance. Whilst studying the work, first alone and then together with Tamsin, I was able to bring an open mind to what was, so far as I knew then, just another unperformed English work. I was aware of one hopeful fact, namely that the work had not dropped out of sight after a fair number of performances but rather had been truly lost, physically mislaid by the composer like many other of her pieces in what seems to have been a fairly chaotic life.
What emerged from this study and preparation, the concerto we performed on that evening in Knightsbridge, proved a revelation. A work of great depth of sentiment and strength of purpose, it moves easily between the Wagnerian intensity of the ‘Tristan’ harmonies through moments of incredible lightness and whimsy to the wonderful sweetness and shimmer of the slow movement. The solo line, written in a strong and clear voice, stimulated Tamsin into an interpretation of breathtaking beauty, warmth and spaciousness which was a sheer joy to accompany. The reaction of the orchestra and other ‘non-aligned’ people was very positive indeed. Indeed, the members of the West London Sinfonia, the fine amateur orchestra who contributed so much to the success of the performance, have spoken of the work in exceedingly complimentary terms ever since.
As to the work’s future, it is very clear to me that the piece fulfils its promise in every respect and thoroughly deserves a place in the repertoire. July’s concert shows that amateur performance is entirely possible, if challenging, a fact which augurs very well. Like so many others, I now find myself overwhelmed by excitement and frustration when I consider all the other works, large and small, which Guirne Creith allowed to disappear and which might, just might, be out there somewhere. Here’s hoping!