Concerto for Double Orchestra

ENS.2019.2 | 19′






Concerto for Double Orchestra

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

I wanted to write an orchestral work filled with hockets and double hockets, musical material leaping from one group of instruments to another in a variety of ways—gently, violently, in solemn ritual alternation. 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 the orchestra in its entirety. By contrast, Volans’s singular masterpiece passes one gruff chord between two halves of an orchestra for twenty minutes to the exclusion of almost anything else, creating a hypnotic and ruggedly gorgeous effect.

My piece brings both approaches together. Simple ideas permute and rotate between the ensembles, so that from a distance the Concerto takes less the form of a sonata or symphony than a clock or automaton, gears turning within gears (though it also resembles a symphony). 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.

The first movement, Monumental, stacks musical graite blocks, short shivering attacks colliding and throwing off occasional sparks of more lyrical material. Next, in Cuneiform, small scribbles of colorful, permuting textures are inscribed on an intermittent, colorful percussive slate, creating a kind of aural Sol LeWitt wall drawing. Hieratic follows, clusters of obscure chords alternating in austere double hockets over a surging bed of interlocking pitched percussion. Finally, Brutalfeatures dueling pairs of convulsive hockets spasming violently against one another, bringing this Concerto for Double Orchestra to an explosive conclusion.