• Thea Musgrave
  • Chamber Concerto No. 2 (1966)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Dartington Summer School of Music for the Vesuvius Ensemble

In homage to Charles Ives

  • fl(pic,afl).cl(bcl)/pf/vn(va).vc
  • 14 min

Programme Note

Chamber Concerto No 2 was commissioned by the Dartington Summer School of Music in 1966. It is dedicated to the Vesuvius Ensemble who gave the first performance. The work is written in homage to Charles Ives to whom one or two ideas can easily be traced.

In the opening section two alternative ideas are the basis for the whole work: a series of five softly built up chords, and interweaving them, short (at first very short) ‘free’, cadenza-like passages. In the latter, a method of writing is evolved which can give great rhythmic complexity, using relatively simple means.

The second section is a lively scherzo, interrupted by lyrical ‘free’ passages, and culminating in a brilliant instrumental cadenza. One for the piano then leads to the slow third section where the alto flute and bass clarinet play an important part.

The fourth section is mainly dominated by anther piano cadenza, and it is at this point that the viola enters impersonating Rollo (a character invented by Ives representing the typical Victorian conservative). Rollo is a disruptive element, for his particular association of ideas is hardly in keeping with the general style of the piece! However, the others interrupt and introduce a Presto Misterioso (fifth section). Again Rollo joins in. The others interrupt more vigorously, but this time Rollo’s motive is not so easily forgotten. A cello cadenza leads to the sixth section where it is accompanied by bell-like repeated note figures. Once more Rollo makes his comment. The others no longer interrupt, but during this last section obsessively repeat fragments of all Rollo’s themes; brief hints from the other sections are also woven into the texture making a wild climax. Then 'like stepping from a crowded street into a quiet church', there is a sudden, soft, slow cadence.

Thea Musgrave