• John McCabe
  • Concertante for Harpsichord and Chamber Ensemble (1965)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by Sandon Studios Society

  • 111111002percstr(1.1.1.1.1)
  • harpsichord
  • 18 min

Programme Note

This work was commissioned by the Sandon Studios Society of Liverpool, and first performed by them in 1965 with Thomas Wess as soloist. It is scored for wind quintet, trumpet, string quintet, and two percussionists, who play a wide variety of instruments including xylophone, glockenspiel, vibraphone, temple blocks and tubular bells. The harpsichord part, although decidedly soloistic in proportions and difficulty, is more closely integrated with the chamber-music style of the much of the development than is usual with a solo work, hence the use of the word "Concertante" rather than the more traditional "Concerto" in the title.

The three movements are largely based on thematic material common to all of them, sometimes treated in a serial manner - metrical serialisation and even aleatoric technique are used at times, though always within a basically tonal idiom. The first movement, Elegia, is slow throughout and falls into two sections - the first uses a process of development by blocks of material being initially contrasted and then gradually brought together for the climax, the second section being a much more straightforward and linear Arioso. The central Capriccio, the slow introduction to which recurs several times during the movement, has two quick parts, the first of which returns briefly at the end - the overall form might be described as a rondo in which the ritornello is a short slow section, the quick episodes forming the bulk of the movement. The finale, Toccata, is the shortest movement, and the only one to be quick throughout, save for a very brief reference to part of the
Elegia before the close.
© 1991 John McCabe