Commissioned by James Galway and the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra.
The piece was jointly commissioned by James Galway and the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra and first performed by them on 7 October 1994 under the direction of Zuohuang Chen. The resources of the full symphony orchestra are required, but often divided into smaller chamber-like combinations with much use of solo and divisi strings, and in the course of the piece the flute engages in dialogue with a wide variety of musical partners, some of them rather unlikely ones such as the contrabassoon and tuba.
There are five movements, with two scherzos placed second and fourth around the central slow movement. The opening movement is very brief and introductory, with various orchestral sonorities emerging from the flute’s solo line, and the second follows without a break. This is an extensive movement built on a series of brief episodes for different concertante groupings of instruments and as it progresses the sonorities become increasingly dense and climactic. The slow movement features the alto flute. At its heart there appears a chorale made up of twenty-five (5x5) five-part chords: this is, in fact, the generative material for much of the concerto, presented here in its most concise and focused form. The fourth movement is simpler and more lightweight than the first scherzo; at its climax fragments of the chorale are hurled around the orchestra. The final movement is the longest, a summation and continuing development of music previously heard. In general terms the music of the first four movements is reviewed in reverse order, and in the process the orchestral flutes become increasingly attached to the solo flute part, at once reinforcing it and embellishing and echoing it.