CONCERTO GROSSO, op.12
My Concerto Grosso (Allegro - Tempo di menuetto - Ostinato - Molto tranquilo - Rondo) is a work I completed early this millennium and performed with amateur forces. At that time it was for two oboes, violin, viola and harpsichord, with strings. In 2011, I reworked it, adding a solo cello part and changing the ending.
The piece begins with baroque-sounding music that quickly gets eroded by alien keys intervening. A central section introduces what could be a music-hall tune, but once again the accompaniment is in the wrong key and after a while the orchestra knocks it out, all that remains being one phrase that keeps repeating like an old vinyl stuck in a crack. Harpsichord and pizzicato soloists initiate a return to the first part, which ends with a brief but energetic coda.
This alternates a stately minuet with a darker contrasting section presented on its first occurrence by the solo violin and viola, the second time by two oboes over an aleatorical pizzicato background and on the third occasion by solo cello and harpsichord. A fast version of the minuet leads to a final version of the contrasting music on full orchestra. The minuet returns one last time, but breaks up into fragments.
The ostinato third movement has a a lively outer part framing a waltz tune that the orchestra quickly tires of, bringing a return to the outer part somewhat prematurely.
The fourth movement is based on a rising phrase stolen from my symphonic poem “Wreck”. For the first time a note of longing is struck and, in the central section, real grief as all the instruments congeal on a unison D. After a brief, tranquil reminiscence of the concerto's opening, the opening rising phrases then return in a richer orchestration.
The final rondo begins with three themes stated one after the other, first on violin, then viola and finally the two oboes. A baroque transition leads to a more martial second subject. The opening music returns, but this time the violin and viola discover that their themes sound well played together, so that is what they do. The two oboes duly follow with their theme, this time accompanied by a seemingly (but nothing is as it seems in this piece) new motif on cellos and basses. This is followed by a return of the transition, the martial second subject and a passage of mounting excitement leading to a final return of the first subject. It is now revealed that not only can violin and viola play their themes together, but the oboes, cellos and basses can all join in, making a five-part contrapuntal statement. It also becomes apparent that the cellos' and basses' motif is no other than the opening of the first movement, so it comes as no surprise when the material of that movement returns to conclude matters. Only... it doesn't quite. Instead of the last unison A, the music steps out into space, as it were, leaving wilting oboes, sliding strings and fragments of the movement scattered all over the place. As this junk yard fades away, the listener may well wonder what exactly he has been listening to.
© Copyright Steve Elcock 2020