Concertos for orchestra are a uniquely 20th century phenomenon, evolving from the Baroque model of the concerto grosso and the ensuing sinfonia concertante. They generally feature multiple solo instruments and alternating focus on contrasting instrumental families. More than 70 have been composed since Hindemith’s landmark work of 1925, including eight by Alan Hovhaness, and five by Robin Holloway. None have been as successful as Bartok’s remarkable work of 1943.
I have used this opportunity to feature every instrument in the orchestra in one way or another. Although classical concertos follow the symphonic fashion of incorporating sonata form, I chose to mutate the form beyond recognition, eliminating the precepts of primary and secondary themes, and the very notion of exposition-development-recapitulation.
In place of these traditional formulae I have used a process developed in my piano trio (“The Village”, 2014): a broad family of musical “elements” evolve organically through a chain of episodes to create a web of melodies and harmonies that are related but not identical. This network of ideas is tied together by strong lateral bonds but remains fluid and flexible, creating a series of fleeting glimpses - what Prokofiev called visions fugitives - abstract patterns glimpsed in the half-light or imagined behind clouds.
Concerto for Orchestra was commissioned by Geoff Stearn for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. It was first performed by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Stern at the Perth Concert Hall on 10 and 11 October, 2014.
Concerto for Orchestra is dedicated to Geoff Stearn.
Carl Vine, August 2014