Philharmonic Concerto


Full Orchestra
Instrumentation - 4331 - timp - perc(3): glsp/bongos/tam-t/SD/cyms/BD/tamb/BD+cym - harp - strings
Commissioned by the Commercial Union Insurance Company
First Performance
31.10.76, Royal Festival Hall, London: London Philharmonic Orchestra/Bernard Haitink

Score 0-571-50827-8 on sale, parts for hire

Programme Notes

The Philharmonic Concerto was commissioned by the Commercial Union Insurance Company. Sir Malcolm Arnold’s Philharmonic Concerto was written for his old orchestra, the London Philharmonic, which he joined as a teenage trumpeter and did not finally leave until 1948 to become a full-time composer. And what better way of paying homage to the collective skills of his former fellow-instrumentalists than through that most demanding of forms, the concerto for orchestra? There was a further pretext. The orchestra was going on an American tour in the middle of the American bicentennial year, 1976. Arnold made his feelings clear in a note that says much about Sir Malcolm himself; he saw a profound significance in “the great 18th-century struggles for freedom amongst subject peoples. Those found their peak with the American War of Independence of 1776. My piece has no quotations from war songs. Instead it celebrates this great event with as much brilliance as I am able to muster.” After that there is little to add: the opening Intrada is gloriously noisy and celebratory, the middle movement in Arnold’s favourite nine-eight metre allows many opportunities for the different sections to sing generously (beginning with the viola) and so lives up to its title of Aria, while the finale is another favourite Arnold form, a Chaconne; its theme is tightly clustered round the six semitones either side of E flat but its treatment is positively explosive, a glorious celebration of the American Dream. © 1998 Piers Burton-Page Please contact Piers Burton-Page for permission to use this.

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