Concerto for Double Orchestra

ENS.2019.2 | 19′






Concerto for Double Orchestra

If a Concerto for Orchestra features the sections of the orchestra as soloists, what is a Concerto for Double Orchestra?

I wanted to write an orchestral work filled with hockets and double hockets, where musical material bounced around from one group of instruments to another, and two antecedents came to mind: Simon Bainbridge’s Fantasia for Double Orchestra and Kevin Volans’s Concerto for Double Orchestra. In the first, material appears independently in each ensemble before being developed across a narrative joining the two halves together, while the second is a singular masterpiece, one gruff chord passed between the ensembles for twenty minutes and almost nothing else, hypnotic and ruggedly gorgeous.

My piece brings both approaches together. Simple ideas permute and rotate between the ensembles, so that from a distance the Concerto takes not the form of a sonata or symphony but a clock or automaton, gears turning within gears. Very simple gestures and flashes of melody move from one half of the orchestra to another, trading ideas back and forth as they slowly develop, or don’t. Huge chords blast across the ensembles, breaking loose musical fragments and textures, falling apart and reassembling themselves, chords like columns supporting vast spans of stone, all ready to come toppling down at any moment.

The first movement is fast and abrupt, short shivering attacks evolving into longer, almost chorale-like episodes. In the second movement, sequences of colorful textures permute, creating a kind of aural Sol LeWitt wall drawing. The third movement is more austere, a slow double hocket over a persistent rhythmic fake gamelan in the percussion and keyboards. Convulsive, explosive hockets rub rhythmically against one another in the finale, a kind of brutal Bridget Riley sonic Op art.