Instrumentation

2(II=picc).2(II=ca).3(II=bcl).2 - 4221 - timp - perc: crot/cyms/susp.cym/tam-t/2 wdbl (high, low)/guiro/snare drum - strings

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Programme Notes

1. Spring Dances
2. Nocturne and Dawn Chorus
3. Summer Dances

Since my usual practice in writing orchestral pieces is to give most of the players at least one opportunity briefly to be a soloist, it seemed a good idea, when I received a specific commission for a Concerto for Orchestra, to take this a little further. In particular, because the Festival Academy Orchestra is half professionals and half recently graduated students (so, for instance, the first flute is a professional and the second a graduate student) I have sometimes used the device of passing a solo line from the first to the second player and vice versa.

The three movements are conceived as two extended dances with a central nocturnal song. As this performance takes place at the transition from spring to summer, I called the first movement 'Spring Dances' and the third 'Summer Dances'. Both these dance movements are somewhat related to the last movement of my Eighth Symphony and its overall cheerful mood. 'Spring Dances' has two contrasting sections, boisterously scored, and then a return of the first section, which soon becomes slower and gentler, and ends with a coda for solo strings.

The central slow movement develops an extended melody on muted strings, which leads to a dawn chorus where each woodwind instrument represents a particular bird: song thrush and robin (flute and piccolo), blackcap and great tit (oboes), two blackbirds (clarinets), woodpigeon and collared dove (bassoons). The birds first enter separately and then gradually come together, when they are joined by two great spotted woodpeckers (a pair of woodblocks). After a brief sunrise and a final outburst of birdsong, 'Summer Dances' follows immediately and presents four different dances, the second based on my attempt at writing an English folksong, the third a sarabande. At the end, the first dance returns and leads to what sounds like an ending in G major, the key in which the Concerto started, but this is immediately challenged by a raucous cuckoo call in C major and two final D major pizzicato chords.

My Concerto for Orchestra is dedicated to my friend William Tillyer in his 80th year, an artist whom I have long greatly admired for his visionary and radical renewal of the English landscape tradition.

DM

Concerto for Orchestra

St James's Church (Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom)

Chipping Campden Festival Academy Orchestra, Thomas Hull

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