A Walk Into War
Piano: Daniel Tong
Baritone: Paul Agnew
The Allegri Quartet
The cream of Britain's classical artists came together for the first performance of A Walk Into War at the Salisbury International Arts Festival in June 2002. The Allegri String Quartet, joined by internationally acclaimed tenor Paul Agnew and the exceptional young pianist Daniel Tong, premièred a work inspired by one of Britain's best loved authors, Laurie Lee.
With their 50-year history, The Allegri Quartet together with guest artist Paul Agnew as the young Laurie Lee proved beyond doubt to be tremendous advocates of this evocative new work. The 9-movement piece is based on two books of Laurie Lee, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment of War. The new work follows the travels of Laurie Lee from his Gloucestershire home to London where he 'sniffed the first sweet smell of revolution.' His epic journey through Spain forms the central portion of this new work and by the time he reached the South the ominous signs of the forthcoming Spanish Civil War were clearly evident.
Michael said of the work: 'The challenge of the new work has been to reflect the many different features and styles within these wonderful books, the 'Englishness' of the early chapters, the youth and energy of his long walk through Spain, and the underlying menace of this most desolate of wars. To assist me with this I have made various musical references, some of works premiered in the years that Laurie Lee travelled, and some structures of the various regions of Spain. But uppermost is the story itself.'
This is the second collaboration between the Allegri Quartet and Michael since the ensemble toured his String Quartet No. 1 (Robben Island) following its premiere in 2000. Certainly, the collaboration between composer and quartet is one which has become firmly established over the past few years. Peter Carter (leader) says of Michael's work, 'It is unusual in the 21st century to find new music that appeals so directly to the emotions of the chamber music public. Audience reaction to our performances of his work have been uniformly enthusiastic'.
Also in the programme with the première of A Walk Into War for tenor and piano quintet was one of Vaughan Williams's most established works, On Wenlock Edge.