Chamber Concerto

for flute/picc, oboe/E-hrn, horn, 2 trumpets, piano and strings

Excerpts from rehearsal recordings of Chamber Concerto can be heard at these links:
Chamber Concerto - I (excerpt)
Chamber Concerto - II (excerpt)
Chamber Concerto - III (excerpt)

Though it doesn't sound like Baroque music, this three-movement piece adheres to the original Baroque conception of Concerto in that contrast, interaction and dialogue between instrumental forces create its momentum. Because it was written for a student ensemble, virtuosic solos are not the primary driving force. Instead, ensemble playing and musical dialogue take the center stage. In many places, instrumental colors are contrasted as duos or trios, while the solos that occur are more often used to vary texture or to add expression to the whole rather than provide opportunities for overt showmanship.

For a good balance of sound, a small string section (ca. 54321 or smaller) is suggested. It is also possible to perform this piece with one person per string part.

(performance time ca. 18 minutes)

The first movement of Chamber Concerto begins with a lyrical melody played by solo cello. Though originally slow, this melody actually functions as the ritornello of an Allegro concerto movement. It eventually reappears several times with a faster tempo, and is usually played by the string section. As is true of many traditional ritornelli, this one is not based on the same motivic ideas that are played by the woodwind and brass groups. Instead, each of those two smaller groups functions as a separate ripieno and has its own thematic material and character. Originally, the characters of the string, woodwind, and brass groups remain separated, but as the movement progresses, some sharing of ideas begins to occur. This dialogue of themes and musical characters eventually creates a tension that helps bring about the first movement's dramatic climax.

The second movement is based on two primary thematic ideas. The first begins with a slow and expressive violin solo, then adds a viola. The second one is light, with slightly more motion and is first played by English horn and French horn. Eventually, the tempo of this movement begins to increase, the orchestration becomes denser, the dynamics grow louder and the range moves higher until a brass climax based on the second theme cancels this motion. After that point, a fading brass chord leaves the contrabass and piano in a slow and simple dialogue. Eventually, only the piano remains as a freely played lead-in to the last movement.

The third movement is fast, rhythmically active, and is based on the idea of using piano and bass together as the syncopated foundation of a "rhythm section". Instrumental solos are then placed over this texture in a way that, at least in concept, borrows from the techniques of jazz and popular music. The melodic material used for these solos first appeared as a type of sigh figure during the second movement. But now this sigh is energized by accents, crisp articulation, and a syncopated bass line to become playful and energetic. In ways other than style, this movement is essentially based on the Baroque conception of concerto. Between occurrences of the above-mentioned solos, various contrasting textures, themes and rhythms enter to create a sense of dialogue and competition.

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