• Robert Saxton
  • Concerto for Orchestra (1984)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the BBC for the 1984 Promenade Concerts

  • 3(afl)3(ca)3(bcl)3(cbn)/4331/timp.3perc/2hp.pf.cel/str(
  • 17 min

Programme Note

My CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA was commissioned by the BBC and first performed by the Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir John Pritchard at the 1984 Proms on 13 August.

The basic concept of the work is similar to that of several other recent pieces of mine, namely the idea of creating a large-scale harmonic scheme which returns at the close to the original point of departure, but without a sense of true finality. The idea which lies behind the piece relates to the Hekhaloth tracts, Jewish writings which describe the mystical experience of journeying through the seven heavens and the seven palaces in the highest heaven until the Divine Presence is reached: after the brightness and sometimes fearful qualities of the celestial palaces the eventual goal is total simplicity, calm and infinite light. It was believed that this mystical progress could be experienced during Life or after Death or both.

The idea of this process being repeated suited my formal ideas. The music proceeds from the opening ten-note flickering chord in the violins and the low B flat/E natural bass tritone tracing three large paragraphs divided into sections which play continuously; B flat/E natural are the central pitches and are pivot notes around which much of the harmony revolves. Although the music is not literally descriptive, I have attempted to reflect some of the ideas described in the Hekaloth writings such as the contrast between light and darkness heard at the outset, and to place forward-moving dancing contrapuntal writing of a 'rejoicing' nature alongside more contemplative passages of relative stasis. At the end, after the opening music has returned, reaching a final tutti climax, a slow sustained section of great simplicity is heard which eventually dies away leaving only the notes B flat and E natural sounding before the music disappears inconclusively as though the entire journey must go round and begin again. The orchestra is used in a constantly changing number of 'choruses' and the title refers to this ensemble aspect of the orchestral writing.

© Robert Saxton