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Driving Multimelodic Orchestral Colour with Vladimir Ashkenazy and Nimrod Borenstein

Composer Nimrod Borenstein, 48, was born in Tel Aviv and studied in France and Britain. He’s now a confirmed Londoner and the championship of no less a figure than Vladimir Ashkenazy has helped to raise his music’s profile considerably in recent years. These three pieces show the range and imaginative, philosophical bent of his writing; each is a splendid orchestral showpiece and the Violin Concerto, written in 2013, is a meaty addition to the repertoire, rather in the tradition of high and heroic romanticism. Borenstein started out as a violinist and his enthusiasm and understanding of the instrument’s range of expression comes through beautifully in the concerto. 

Irmina Trynkos digs into the work’s plentiful challenges, a charismatic and bright-toned soloist bringing extrovert, supple expressiveness and playful conversation to the solo line’s galloping interactions with the orchestra. The writing is bustling, vividly orchestrated and conflict-driven – often the drum’s pulse seems to intervene more against the overarching textures than in support of them – and the chiefly tonal language offers a sense of questing individuality.

Borenstein’s preoccupations with science and philosophy are balanced with a certain spiritual outlook in a “creation” piece that mingles aspects of both:The Big Bang and Creation of the Universe(2009) is a three-part work reflecting the ferment of new-sprung life, a somewhat troubled “Peace” and an idealistic dance for Adam and Eve to close. As in the concerto, vibraphone and pizzicato strings play vital roles – and the initial explosion is one of activity rather than anything directly eponymous. Finally,If You Will It, It Is No Dreamtakes its title from Theodor Herzl and is a tribute to Israel, dedicated to its sponsor, an Israeli philanthropist; it unfurls in ten minutes of driving “multimelodic” orchestral colour.

The concerto and theBig Bangpiece were both premiered by the Oxford Philharmonic, and under Ashkenazy’s galvanising baton they approach the pieces with considerable gusto. Trynkos’s performance, full of heart and soul, is an outstanding star turn. If you are keen to discover contemporary idioms that are equally far from both “squeaky gate” styles and soporific New Age purling, you might give this one a whirl.  

Performance: four stars

Sound: four stars

Nimrod Borenstein: Violin Concerto; If You Will It, It Is No Dream; The Big Bang and Creation of the Universe