Commissioned by Price-Waterhouse for the Birmingham Conservatoire

  • 3+pic.3.3+bcl.ssx+asx+tsx.3(cbn)/4430/4perc/amp pf.syn/str
  • 6 min

Programme Note

Like a number of my recent pieces, the Toccata for Orchestra is concerned with simultaneously developing background and foreground musics, creating a constantly changing orchestral perspective. This is achieved by the superimposition of two rigorously controlled 'linear processes'.

The foreground music is given to a spatially separated 'unison' concertante group of flute, oboe, clarinet, soprano saxophone, bassoon, horn, trumpet and trombone, welded together by an amplified electric piano. From the opening bar of the piece, this ensemble projects 'sempre fortissimo' the journey of a 'melodic line'; beginning from a 1-bar unit, the line proliferates into a 24-bar cycle.

Against this melodic bullet! I have weaved a predominantly pianissimo back cloth of kaleidoscopic changing instrumental colours that oscillate between 'heterophonies' and harmonic counterpoints. About halfway through the piece a 'pulsing' texture evolves, providing the starting point for the formation of a counter 'linear thread' that eventually collides with the foreground melody.

This piece is about linear velocity and its initial conception was evoked by the experience of flying in the jumpseat of a 737. The surge of power as the jet rolled down the runway and up into a racetrack between the clouds provided an unforgettable visual stimulus to the composition.

© Simon Bainbridge


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