The title Eastern Concertato refers to the fact that this piece mixes musical ideas inspired by Chinese music with compositional techniques borrowed from the Western concerto grosso (here, five wind soloists opposing a larger orchestra group). The piece is written as a single dramatically shaped movement that plays out as follows:
The music begins with a slow tempo and quiet atmospheric textures that use string harmonics and sparkling sounds from the piano and percussion instruments. Over these colors, violas play a simple and somewhat elegant melody. The use of glissandi and the predominance of melodic perfect fourths and major seconds gives this melody a calm Eastern flavor. Then suddenly, this mood is broken by animated interjections from the woodwind soloists who play a series of contrasting pentatonic pitch collections. The result is that a dispute arises between the slow string music and the faster, more complex music of the soloists.
Each time the soloists enter, they add new melodic ideas (and/or rhythmic motives), bring an increase of tempo and create new tonal contrasts. Furthermore, complex rhythmic relationships between various soloists create an animated 'uncontrolled' effect that is similar to the sound of several folk musicians improvising simultaneously. The strings, however, continually return to their slow and stately music in an attempt to preserve overall uniformity and order. The result is that the music is continually pulled in different directions by different characters. Eventually, this instability even effects the strings who take over the entire ensemble with a dramatic increase of tempo and an assertive climax. This attempt at order has no effect on the soloists, however, and they continue separating off into their own smaller groups.
Eventually, after another major dramatic climax, the clarinet soloist plays a relatively elegant and 'civilized' melody and it seems that all disputes have been settled. Soon, however, the solo oboe begins adding its own melodic comments, which are then followed by aggressive interjections by the flute. Here it becomes obvious that the conflict of ideas has still not been resolved. Eventually, the bassoon adds a calm and 'rational' melody which is then followed by the tuba’s own slow and thoughtful ideas. Even though each of these melodies is pleasant enough on its own, the end result is a five-part counterpoint of confusion. However, just when it appears that there is no hope of making the soloists cooperate, they suddenly lock together as an animated rhythmic pattern. The strings then enter over this new accompaniment texture with a confident and energetic version of their own opening melody. From here onwards, the music rushes toward the end as a bright, strong and optimistic orchestral tutti.
(performance duration ca. 9 minutes)