• Gunther Schuller
  • Concerto for Orchestra No. 2 (1976)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • 4(4pic,afl)4(ca,obda)5(ebcl,3bcl,cbcl,asx)4(cbn)/4441/timp.5perc/cel.hp.pf/str
  • 22 min

Programme Note

Composer Note:

Concerto No. 2 for Orchestra was completed in September, 1976. The term Concerto for Orchestra applies primarily to the fact that the work consistently features many soloists in the orchestra, particularly those who traditionally perform independent individual parts, i.e., the woodwinds, brass, and first chair strings. I have gone a step further than usual by prominently displaying even such infrequently heard instruments as the contrabassoon, the contrabass clarinet, the oboe d’amore, and the alto flute. Indeed, the overall sound of the whole concerto is shifted somewhat toward the wind instruments (both wood and brass) to an extent I had never attempted before. This is directly related to my experiences—another recent work written for the organ. The almost inexhaustible tibral possibilities available, let’s say, on a good three manual organ opened my ears to sonority possibilities which I had never imagined before. And since the organ is also a wind instrument, many of the “new sounds” which I was beginning to hear tended to go in the direction of wind rather than string instruments.

The emphasis on the wind instruments is particularly noticeable in the first of the three movements, a fast alla breve opening with many fleeting and scurrying figures—the movement is marked scorrevole. It builds gradually to a climactic peak through the addition of increasing numbers of instruments, greater variety of timbres and higher dynamic levels. On the way, stray reminiscences of ragtime and jazz are woven into the orchestral fabric. And as the climax in turn dissipates, the music is transformed imperceptibly into a brief and amiable waltz episode. A sudden interruption by gigantic block chords brings the movement to a close.

With but a slight pause, the second movement continues, set in three recurring and related tempos. Tempo II is double that of Tempo I, while Tempo III is one third faster than Temp I. Each trio of tempi occurs eight times and each, in different rotations and durations, embodies a different characteristic or mood: mysterious and quiet (Tempo I); agitated and nervous (Tempo II); highly contrasting in texture and mercurial (Tempo III).

The third movement—set in a stately maestoso—alternates between episodes using the full power and resources of the orchestra and such episodes as those which use only the most delicate combinations. The concerto ends in a “triumphant” almost C major, recalling the “pealing bell” music in 12/4 with which the last movement began.

—Gunther Schuller