Elaine Agnew


Type of Work: Ensemble
Instrumentation: Violin and piano
Length: 12 minutes
Commissioned by: Katherine Hunka
Premiere: 4 February 2002, Wigmore Hall, London. Katherine Hunka and Sophia Rahman
Recording: Lontano Music from Northern Ireland (LORELT LNT 117)


The opening short prologue for solo violin contrasts high ringing bell sounds with low delicate whispers prior to the entry of the piano with its stately, slow-moving chords.  A faster pulse immerses the violin into a more agitated world and the ensuing sudden drop of register allows the playful violin to frolic around with the piano’s short stabs.  Both musicians come to an abrupt halt and the silence which follows is disturbed by sounds plucked randomly from the air.  Suddenly the two players take off with an energetic rhythmical line whose perpetual motion regularly changes gear.  The concluding epilogue, echoing the opening violin solo, is followed by a frantic dash to the end.

Statues was commissioned by Katherine Hunka and Sophie Rahman and premiered in February 2002 in the Wigmore Hall, London.  It was subsequently performed during the 2003 Composers’ Choice series in the National Concert Hall in Dublin and in 2004, German violinist Isabelle Faust and French pianist Florent Boffard performed Statues on a Music Network tour of Ireland. Dublin choreographer and dancer Fiona Quilligan included Statues in the sound score of her new show at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin Pas De Chat. It has been recorded on CD by new music group Lontano as part of an Arts Council of Northern Ireland initiative.

Simon Hewitt Jones, Recital Review:

“Sophia Rahman’s sympathetic and precise playing came to the fore in Elaine Agnew’s Statues for violin and piano, a specially commissioned composition of which this was the world premiere.  The many different effects of this engaging piece were well brought out; again, greater exaggeration of contrasts would have made for an even more sparkling performance, but the many juxtapositions were nevertheless played with eloquence and virtuosity.  This was one of the highlights of the evening’s recital, and was unanimously well received by the capacity audience.”

Rick Jones, Evening Standard:

“Katherine Hunka gave the first performance of Elaine Agnew’s Statues, a piece that demands fierce concentration.  Brilliant accompanist Sophia Rahman watched Hunka like a hawk in the stuttering pizzicato passages and paced her like a twin over the jazz-based running octaves...I am glad I was there”

Hubert Culot, CD Review:

“Elaine Agnew’s music is probably better known, especially her splendid Strings A-stray for string orchestra (on Black Box BBM 1013 hopefully still available). Statues, completed in 2001, is a substantial duo for violin and piano. It opens with a short, pensive prologue for solo violin. With the piano’s entry, the music becomes more song-like in character and leads into the central section, actually a moto perpetuo. The epilogue briefly echoes the opening music. A brief restatement of the moto perpetuo’s music brilliantly, but abruptly concludes the piece.”