Trumpet Concerto

Trumpet Concerto

for trumpet, live-electronics and full orchestra (1988) 35′

This concerto grew out of the idea of realigning, by means of live-electronics, the traditional concerto relationship of the individual to the mass. Just amplifying the soloist puts him potentially on a par with the orchestra, as regards volume of sound. The introduction of pitch-transposers and time-delays takes this re-alignment considerably further. The live-electronic component enables the soloist to increase his influence both vertically and horizontally, so to speak. He can add harmonies parallel to his lines, and expansions in time by means of multiple echoes.

My exploration of the possibilities afforded by this new arrangement has given rise to three movements, each evoking an archetypal form or phenomenon: Dolmen; Beach; Dawn.

The Dolmen movement is not descriptive in any exact way, but seeks to evoke the mood of extreme antiquity which surrounds these mysterious objects. Nobody seems to know what they were for, which is a large part of their fascination, but many assert that they must have been tombs. Dolmen has a wide-ranging episodic form, but the climactic passages are certainly funereal in character. Beach is a reflective nocturne, prompted by the following lines from Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach:

Listen! You hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremendous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

It culminates in a cadenza where the soloist steps forward, drawing together motifs from all three movements. Here, the electronic echoes of the flugelhorn (on which both the latter movements are played) have an important role, as do the accompanying electronic keyboards which are added to the normal instrumentation of the orchestra.

The finale, Dawn, is much more forward-looking. Even so, its quasi-tonal harmonies are derived from the same motif which generated the whole first movement. But the concerto ends much more euphoniously than it began, and in this respect it resembles The Transistor Radio of St Narcissus which I wrote for John Wallace a few years ago. The concerto is dedicated to John Wallace and was commissioned by Gwyn L. Williams of BBC Bangor.

© 1988 Tim Souster