As a composer, I am lucky to teach at F&M where I have colleagues such as Susan Klick and Doris Hall-Gulati, who are both spectacular virtuoso soloists. When Brian Norcross asked me to compose a work for flute and bass clarinet with orchestra I was delighted to write for these two musicians. The work I wrote for them (played for the first time today) is less a concerto in the romantic sense (hero or heroines struggling against full orchestral forces) but instead more of an intimate piece of chamber music in which the soloists interact with smaller ensembles within the larger group. This is a more compact and Baroque conception of the concerto.
Each of the five movements features different chamber ensembles drawn from the full forces. The first and last movements employ full orchestra. The work begins Allegro frenetico, or fast and frenetic, and I was influenced by the cartoon music (particularly chase and sound effects) I grew up with. The second movement drops the winds and uses only strings and vibraphone to accompany the soloists. This slower, and darker second movement is a tombeau for Joaquín Rodrigo, who was a very important Spanish composer who died recently. He was blind and notated most of his much loved music by dictating the notes to his wife, including the guitar concerto, Conerto de Arranjuez, which I refer to here. The second movement of the Rodrigo has a rhythmic motive which I employ with two very short notes followed by a sustained lyrical line. The third movement is a bravura cadenza for the two soloists. It attempts to achieve a tyoe of heightened espressivo through a paradoxical mechanical cruelty. The two soloists are joined in very fast and somewhat relentless staccatissimo octave playing that evokes a feeling of considerable tension. The fourth movement is an ebullient and rhythmically tricky scherzo for five, for winds and percussion, no strings. The soloists are almost completely integrated into the chamber music fabric in this movement. The amplified harpsichord, accordion, marimba and drum kit are a small group unto themselves as they carry the thematic material in the majority of interludes. The work concludes with full orchestra, in a reference to Janizary music, or the military bodyguard of the Turkish sovereigns (1400-1826). This is a Turkish rondo, a genre Mozart was particularly fond of, and a type of music also referred to in the final movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
January 30, 2000: Doris Hall-Gulati, bass clarinet, Susan Klick, flute, with Brian Norcross conducting the F&M Philharmonia at the Super Bowl Cultural Warmup.