4(IV=picc) asax.tsax.bsax.3.cbsn - 4342 - perc(3): 2 tam-t/susp.cym/burmese gong/t.bells/2 tom-t/bongos/BD/glsp/3 tgl/crot - double basses (1-4) The four saxophones may be omitted and replaced by four extra horns


Score and parts for hire

Published by Margun Music Inc, USA - UK rights only with Faber Music

Programme Notes

Choral began as a sort of ‘Ivesian’ vision in which I saw several funeral processions converging onto a point in the distance. It was composed mostly during February 1970 near London; the final section was completed – after a long gap – while I was living in Boston in spring 1972. The title refers both to the employment of the large wind orchestra in discrete choirs (which shift as the piece progresses), and also to the chorale which, in a strange way, characterises the statuesque nature of the music – which is, in essence, the decoration of a single, immensely slow sequence of four chords. In the first three sections a single chord is slowly transformed into the next, by rhythmic decoration or by long melodic strands growing out of their intervals. The third section (built out of Scriabin’s Mystery Chord) builds to a violent climax, culminating in a simultaneous statement of all four chords in one massive dissonance. Out of this emerges the short fourth section: a flute melody begins, harmonized by and immediately swallowed up in a chorale-like sequence of the four basic chords. On another level the work gradually accelerates from an extremely slow pace, at which almost nothing happens, to a more normal state of progression towards the end. For a long time Choral stood isolated, with little or no connection to the music I wrote immediately before or after it; but its sound spontaneously resurfaced near the end of my Third Symphony (completed in 1979), and traces can be felt through several of the orchestral interludes in my fantasy opera Where the Wild Things Are (1979-83) and Higglety Pigglety Pop! (1983-85).

© Oliver Knussen


Grote Zaal, Het Concertgebouw (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/George Benjamin

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Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre (London, United Kingdom)

Pierre-Laurent Aimard/George Benjamin/Philharmonia Orchestra/Philharmonia Chorus/James Hall


8pm; BBC promoted public concert

Barbican Hall, Barbican Centre (London, United Kingdom)

Claire Booth/BBC Symphony Orchestra/Oliver Knussen


BBC Maida Vale Studios (London, United Kingdom)

BBC Symphony Orchestra/Oliver Knussen


No Venue (Gloucester, United Kingdom)

Philharmonia Orchestra/Richard Hickox