• Michael Blake Watkins
  • Double Concerto "after Psallein" for Oboe & Guitar (1972)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Won the Menuhin Prize in 1975

  • 2(pic)0201210perc.xyl.vib.glockcelstr
  • oboe, guitar
  • 27 min

Programme Note

Michael Blake Watkins: Double Concerto (after Psallein)
for Guitar, Oboe and Orchestra

In 1971 I was asked to write a short piece for guitar solo with guitar ensemble, clavichord and percussion. Due to the nature of the music I called it Psallein, a Greek word which meant first ‘to pull’, ‘to twitch’, and later ‘to play upon a stringed instrument’. Subsequently I decided that some of the material could be used as a basis for a guitar concerto. I had been wanting to write a work for solo oboe, so in 1972 decided to combine the two projects into a double concerto.

The work is a single movement, scored for solo oboe, solo guitar, flute doubling piccolo, alto flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, horn, 2 trumpets, trombone, 2 percussion players, celeste and 15 string players.

The first main section is a lively fanfare contrasted with a quieter, lyrical passage. The oboe dominates both these ideas, featuring in the first its characteristic swooping motif, and in the second an extended theme accompanied by strings. A short oboe cadenza leads to a long winding cantilena, with an orchestral accompaniment of cloudy, gently moving harmonies. The progress of this section is occasionally interrupted by short outbursts from the orchestra. The guitar has an insistent 5/16 rhythm.

A guitar cadenza leads to a development of the opening material. Snatches of the earlier cantilena give way to an elaborate guitar solo before a new theme appears, on the oboe. The climax that follows is an important ‘cell’, on which orchestral variations are built. A major development and an oboe cadenza lead the work to its whispering conclusion.

This work won ‘The Menuhin Prize’ for young composers in 1975.

© Michael Blake Watkins