1(+ alt.fl).1.1.1 – 22.214.171.124, – hp, perc, – 5vv, 2vla, 1vc, 1db
First perf. St. John’s Waterloo, Gabriella Swallow, Southbank Sinfonia, cond. Nicholas Cleobury
Don continues a theme of symbolism that permeates and guides so many of my compositions. In this instance it explores certain moral issues in a somewhat enigmatic way, while exploiting the distinct nature of the concerto medium. Indeed it is the master/servant relationship, in which the soloist both guides and follows those around it, that stimulates much of the musical argument. The use of a semi-solo bassoon part acts as a ‘doppelganger’ as well as allowing for that ‘master/servant’ relationship to be explored (hence the title Don as in Don Giovanni and Don Quixote, etc.) The ‘solo role’ in any concerto has dramatic connotations, but it must reach beyond ‘pure theatre’ even if it embraces it. This cello part is hugely virtuosic, as are many of the passages the other instrumentalists have to play.
The harmonic impetus stems from the opening chord to the central movement of Bartok’s fourth string quartet – a chord built up of two whole-tone triads which together form a diatonic hexachord. This particular chord, composer and quartet are important to me. There is an inherent symmetry of Bartok’s chord – and the way in which it is expanded as the movement progresses. My work expands it, and symmetrically too, but delves into the world of microtones and harmonies that allude to other cultures. Issues of ‘convergence’ and ‘divergence’ form the basis of the concerto, with the principals of two differing groups (cello and bassoon) responding to the harmonic realms established by each other. While the cello continually sets the pace, its own musical material evolves and adapts as a result of varying ‘influences’ from others. Political issues can be alluded to, of course. Not least in the suggestion that interaction of seeming opposites can share common ground through debate. Bartok’s own music is particularly apposite to use in this way. The renowned musicologist Theodore Adorno pointed out that Bartok’s music ‘spans the gulf between, on the one hand, the ahistorical, epic ‘natural community of the pre-industrial world where the ‘individual’ is represented by the hero… and, on the other hand, the highly industrialised societies of the modern world, within which the individual … exists in a state of alienation’.
© Paul Max Edlin 2007
Perusal score available on request