Concerto for Percussion


by Jonathan Harvey

solo percussion and orchestra
Solo Instruments with Orchestra
3(III=picc).2.3(III=bcl).3(III=cbsn) - 4331 - perc(1): t.bells/glsp/2 oriental gong/3 wdbl/ ped - pno - harp - strings - reverberation unit + amplification (ad lib) or CD (ad lib) - solo percussion: mar/vib/2 balinese gamelan keyboards/8 wdbl/mark tree
Commissioned by the BBC for the 1997 BBC Proms
First Performance
26.7.97, BBC Promenade Concert, Royal Albert Hall, London: Evelyn Glennie/BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Richard Hickox

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Programme Notes
My percussion concerto was written for Evelyn Glennie and commissioned by the BBC for the Promenade Concerts 1997. It is a work in three movements, lasting some 25 minutes in all. In the first movement the two principle subjects are both canonic, with the soloist starting after the orchestra but in faster tempo, redistributing the accents and thus reinterpreting the melodic line as it goes. Eventually the soloist overtakes the orchestra and a new canon starts, with soloist leading. The second principle subject is underpinned with waltz accompaniments giving an even firmer foundation for the re-accentuation of the canonic echo. A scherzo section follows, with scoring reduced to solo vibraphone, piano and harp for the most part. This alternates with a slow movement idea: the two combine and form one of the few tutti climaxes to lead back to the waltz canon and finally to the primary canon, now entirely fragmented. The second movement is a slow one. It is built on eight chords played by the strings; chords connected by long, slurred glissandi - the harmony coming in and out of focus in a dream-like way, often coloured by the inharmonic beauty of the gamelans. The last movement follows without a break, prolonging the final, utterly peaceful chord of the slow movement in a softly shimmering light. The entire sound universe begins to vibrate, and continues to do so throughout much of the movement - this chord and its extension never changing. However, more and more slashes of energy are thrown across it: scalic figures in the harmonic fields used in the first movement flash through, also canons (again) and ostinati. Eventually the vibration becomes even faster, interspersed with loud, heavy pillars. The work is perhaps a study of the play of light - play being as important as light. JH

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'Concerto for Percussion' reviews

'Distilling much of Harvey's technical, imaginative, philosophical preoccupations to date, this is a work of breathtaking beauty. It is complex and daring in its fresh view of what it may mean to be percussive; yet spare, clear, playful.' The Times (Hilary finch) July 1997 Read more

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