Lawrence Power, one of a relatively small group of violists who did not first play the violin, started viola lessons at the age of eight at his primary school. At eleven he began attending the Guildhall School of Music’s junior department under Mark Knight, a pupil of Yfrah Neaman. Neaman’s teaching made liberal use of the Alexander Technique (which Power believes is the reason he has avoided many of the injuries and strains that are found commonly with viola players) and involved an eclectic stylistic approach including the application of historical practices on modern instruments. Power then took further studies with Karen Tuttle (a pupil of William Primrose) at the Juilliard School for a year.
A keen chamber musician, Power plays with the Nash Ensemble and is a founder member of the Leopold String Trio, which he acknowledges has stretched his abilities further than solo playing. He is also a well-respected teacher, holding a visiting professorship at London’s Royal College of Music.
His playing on record shows a thoughtful musicianship, as in the reflective York Bowen Romance (from Power’s Hyperion releases of Bowen’s complete viola music), and an equal enjoyment of the heroic, predominant in Bowen’s Concerto (premièred by Lionel Tertis in 1908). Like Tertis, Power plays a large instrument—a rare Antonio Brensi 17-inch viola of 1610—and produces on it great depth of tone on the lower strings and a lithe, fluid sound across its range. There is a flautando dreaminess and spacious approach to tempo in his 2006 Brahms F minor Sonata. Dramatic comprehension is evident in Forsyth’s fine Viola Concerto of 1904 (recorded 2007), in which Power proves more than equal to the work’s characterful demands. Rubbra’s dark, brooding mid-twentieth-century Concerto (2007) requires careful balancing of the intense outer movements with a dance-like vivaciousness in the middle, which Power manages aptly. In more recent repertoire, Power’s Ligeti Solo Sonata (from his 2001 début album, a product of winning the Maurice Vieux International Viola Competition) draws the listener into a private sound world in which admirable depth of tone and technical confidence result in interpretative authority. Power is unquestionably one of today’s most persuasive viola interpreters.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)
Role: Classical Artist