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James MacMillan's new Trombone Concerto receives its first performance in Amsterdam on 20 April with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and soloist Jörgen van Rijen.

The latest in James MacMillan's series of concertos, a major thread running through his recent output, is written for Dutch trombonist Jörgen van Rijen, Principal with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, whose solo career has introduced a number of new concertos for the instrument from leading composers. The RCO gives the premiere of the MacMillan concerto at the Royal Concertgebouw Hall on 20 April under the baton of Iván Fischer followed by two further Amsterdam performances on 21 and 23 April.

The 25-minute Trombone Concerto, cast in a single movement and based according to the composer on "a 'ghostly' theme of seven notes", is jointly commissioned by the RCO with five other international orchestras: the Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Oulu Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonisches Orchester des Staatstheaters Cottbus and Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The US premiere in Dallas is announced for 15 February 2018, with planned performances in future seasons in Antwerp, Geneva, Oulu and Cottbus, all featuring Jörgen van Rijen.

James MacMillan studied the trumpet as a young musician and this has led to a special affinity with brass instruments across his orchestral works, whether heard as fanfare-like brilliance, dark brooding colours or special mute effects. Soloist Jörgen van Rijen commented that "in all the pieces I’ve played by MacMillan, I’ve been struck by how effectively he writes for the trombone, so I asked him whether he would be interested in writing a trombone concerto. I was so pleased he immediately said yes!"

The Trombone Concerto is dedicated to Jörgen van Rijen and in memoriam to Sara Maria MacMillan, the composer's granddaughter who died aged five last year after suffering from a congenital brain condition. The personal tragedy came at the time MacMillan embarked on composing the Trombone Concerto and in a recent interview in The Scotsman he described how there are inevitable allusions: "I don't think it's a morose piece, but as I settled down to write it in January/February of last year, thoughts of Sara were with me all the time. It's a big abstract piece, it has no particular message, but subliminally it's haunted by her memory."

Continuing the brass theme, MacMillan's trumpet concerto Epiclesis was recently announced for the 2017 Edinburgh International Festival on 19 August with Norwegian soloist Ole Edvard Antonsen and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with the composer on the rostrum. Other MacMillan highlights in coming months include a new 12-part choral work for The Bach Choir, Blow the trumpet in the new moon, for premiere at the Southbank Centre on 29 June, and The Sun Danced commissioned to celebrate the centenary of the Fátima shrine in Portugal with performances by the Gulbenkian Orchestra and Chorus in Fátima on 13 October and Lisbon on 15 October.

>  Further information on Work: Trombone Concerto

Photo: Philip Gatward

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