Lawrence Power and Thomas Adès record Three Berceuses. Photo: Emma Werner (detail) View full image

Vision for the future

As he releases Three Berceuses, the first track from a new visual album, and devises an innovative video-concert format for the Southbank Centre, Lawrence Power explains why he’s pushing the boundaries

I wanted to see what would happen if one devised an interesting recording and made it into a visual album. The theme of this first set of films is Dark Pastoral. There’s an obscure, unfinished piece by Vaughan Williams called Dark Pastoral, which was going to be a cello concerto, and the name always stuck with me. There’s a certain British undertone to it, and pastoral music is often interpreted as a sunny, romantic thing, but I’m interested in the more sinister side.

The first video of the series I’m making with Jessie Rodger and our production company, Âme, is with Thomas Adès, one of the world’s greatest composers. He wrote Three Berceuses for me as a commission from the Viola Commissioning Circle, arranging them from his opera The Exterminating Angel. It feels much more special to be able to watch him perform his own work on film than just hearing it on CD – that is the benefit of working with video. It’s also such an important historic record – I always find it fascinating to watch composers performing their own music.

There will be further tracks in the Dark Pastoral theme and for the next films I want to collaborate with a cross-section of artists – not just musicians – seeing where that leads. Putting energy into these projects is an investment in the future – it leads to new creative ideas and outcomes.

There’s an important conversation to have about how one releases music today. Recording a CD and just putting it out is not the only way. I’m coming from the privileged position of having recorded a lot, but I am intrigued by how things are changing. Whether it’s a CD or online content, we record in order to engage with people all over the world, but the ultimate aim is to encourage them to experience live performance.

The whole concert experience is evolving, too, and Jessie and I are devising a live show, Fathom, at Southbank Centre in December, which is a further extension of the idea of combining film and live performance. It’s going to be an hour-long experience portraying a day at sea. We’ll play with the space, with musicians performing around the hall, with 360-degree surround sound, and projections around the whole room. There will solo viola music as well as chamber items, with composers including Peter Gregson, Cassandra Miller and Thomas Larcher. Some pieces will exist on stage and film simultaneously, some will just be on film. It’s an experiment to see what kind of interesting live experience one can create.

On a technical level, it’s a huge undertaking and we want to get it right. Luckily Toks Dada at Southbank Centre understands that we need to have these conversations. He’s set up the Purcell Room as a space for the curious, supporting people just trying things out. It’s not the sort of thing you would be able to do a traditional concert hall. It is another creative outlet, a way to continue playing and having fun, and to keep developing the whole idea of what was a concert can be.

Lawrence Power performs with BBC Philharmonic at the BBC Proms on 18 July.

Fathom comes to Southbank Centre's Purcell Room on 1 December.

Three Berceuses from Dark Pastoral