Concerto for Viola and Orchestra

For: Orchestra + solo Viola
page one of Concerto for Viola and Orchestra

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Concerto for Viola and Orchestra



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Year of composition
Difficult (Grades 7+)
21 minutes
Modern classical music
License details
For anything not permitted by the above licence then you should contact the publisher first to obtain permission.

This Concerto started life in 1974 which, although complete, was revisited in 2015 when I decided it needed extensive revision. When I started work on the revision during the late 2016, I realised that much of it needed to be completely re-written, but using some of the material from the 1974 version.

The original was in two movements, but the current version is in the usual three – Allegretto, Adagio and Moderato, playing for 21 minutes. The orchestration is basically double woodwind; a brass section featuring two horns, three trumpets and two trombones; three percussion players; timpani and strings.

As the viola is often considered to be a rather melancholy instrument, the Concerto takes on a predominantly melancholic nature, contrasted with the brass, in particular the three trumpets, stating brash fanfares in the first and last movements. Indeed, two of the trumpets start the Concerto in open 4ths. After a cadenza for the soloist, the trumpets are again prominent with what can only be described as a rhythmic cluster. The first theme returns, followed by a more relaxed section introducing a melody based on a rising two-note phrase. The trumpets repeat their rhythmic patterns after which there is a new, slower theme focussing on the melancholy. The movement ends with a return of the first theme.

The second movement is the most melancholy, focussing on the two-note rising theme already heard. This contrasts with a slightly faster section, followed by a return to the melancholic section of the first movement before returning to the initial idea, which builds to a climax. The movement ends very quietly, but before it is allowed to die away completely, the soloist moves things forward with a bridge section which leads, without a break, to the final movement.

The third movement is mainly in 6/8 and 9/8 time. Trumpets and horns announce the main theme fortissimo. This theme is contrasted with a section of descending scales. The section is followed by the three trumpets announcing their theme – a rising and falling phrase – this being taken up by the soloist and the rest of the orchestra. Then follows a recapitulation of the melancholic second movement, slightly developed. The first idea returns, complete with descending scales and trumpets, building to a climax where the open trumpet fanfares of the first movement are heard by the whole brass section, complete with tam-tam. The soloist emerges with a short cadenza, and then the movement returns to the opening theme played slowly, becoming quieter so as to strengthen the melancholic character. The piece ends with open sustained chords on the strings and a quiet rhythm on the timpani.

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