Recorder Concerto

Solo Recorder (6 amplified recorders) with orchestra (2017)
20 mins

I started sketching the ideas for the Recorder Concerto in mid 2015 and completed the piece in early 2017.  For me this is a particularly long gestation period.  Admittedly I was composing other pieces, but I think there were so many things to consider technically with this piece – the nature of the solo instrument versus orchestra, its very specific dynamics, the amplification, the number of possible solo instruments on offer and their respective ranges.  After all it’s not an instrument I have an intimate knowledge of.  And this was before I got to deciding what sort of piece to write.

It seemed important that the piece acknowledged the directness of airflow that a recorder produces, from performer straight through the tube, without anything getting in the way like a reed, or having to precisely angle the instrument or having to blow a raspberry down it.  The lack of resistance seemed important in some way to me.  So ‘breath’ became pretty central to the work.  After all it’s pretty central to most of us and without it things do change somewhat.  In this piece there are different sorts of breathing cycles – the anticipatory inhale, the unwinding exhale, the breath which exudes effort, the breathing which post-effort slowly normalises and the breathing of calmness.   It’s all pretty breathy.

Composed for Sophie Westbrooke and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for the 2017 Vale of Glamorgan Festival, the piece was commissioned by Evelyn Nallen and Barbara Laws, assisted by the Society of Recorder Players and the Vale of Glamorgan Festival.