Commissioned by the Serge Koussevitzky Music foundation in the Library of Congress

Dedicated to the memory of Serge and Natalie Koussevitzky

  • 1111/1000/str(
  • 19 min

Programme Note

Space Play – A concerto for nine instruments is intended to be performed without a conductor. The idea was to emphasize the soloistic qualities of a brilliant group of players such as the London Sinfonietta. An immediate problem was how to compose for such a large group of independent musical personalities with their particular virtuosic freedoms and yet have a work which would be practical to rehearse. In fact the players share out the function of conductor as they in turns lead the rest of the group. The oboe dominates the opening Andante espressivo, the flute and bassoon the Più mosso and the clarinet the Calmo, molto rubato ed espressivo. There are also two cadenzas led by the horn; one after the oboe’s Andante, the other culminating out of the clarient’s Calmo, where the clarinet and horn vie with each other to dominate the scene.

The spatial separation is important to the nature of the dialogue - and so the four woodwinds are placed at the four corners of the platform and the strings form an inner circle around the horn. The horn is thus the nucleus of the group, and being visible to all the players is also required occasionally to beat time or to give hand signals. Hence the title Space Play - implying not only this acoustical separation, but also an element of comedy.

Space Play was commissioned by the Serge Kossevizky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress and is dedicated to the memory of Serge and Natalie Koussevitzky. First performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall by the London Sinfonietta in October 1974.

Thea Musgrave