Concerto for Flute and Orchestra

Peter Schickele

Rental
Publisher: Elkan-Vogel, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

When I was a student at Juilliard, there was an annual prize given for the best piece of quiet music for strings or organ. It could be in any style, but it had to be quiet. Commissions, too, sometimes have stipulations, and one I savored was attached to the commissioning of my flute concerto: since it was to be premiered in 1991, the bicentennial of Mozart?s death, it was to have some connection with Mozart. Since Mozart?s music is one of the few things that come close to rendering me inarticulate, I regarded that stipulation as a challenge, but also as a chance to pay tribute to the man whom I would probably name, if we had to make this kind of choice (and, fortunately, we don?t), as my favorite composer.

One of my favorite pieces by this favorite composer is his first symphony, written when he was eight years old. Although he may have had help from his father, one of the things that impresses me about the piece is how Mozartian it sounds (and I mean Wolfgang); I have sung the opening measures to people who don?t know the work, and they always guess that it?s Mozart, but the usually guess one of the mature operas ? The Abduction from the Seraglio, or The Magic Flute. After the cadenza, at the beginning of the third movement of my flute concerto, the oboes, horns and strings play the slow movement of Mozart?s first symphony verbatim, while the rest of the orchestra and the solo flute and my own counterpoint. An analogy might be, I suppose, an artist painting over a photograph. This Cantilena is an homage to Mozart, with bells to introduce his music, and again at the end, a subtle tolling effect, but more in the spirit of an elegy than a funeral.

It greatly pleases me that the concerto was privately commissioned, that is, by individual people (Richard and Jody Nordlof) for a particular soloist (Carol Wicenc), rather than by an institution. It?s not that I have anything against institutions, it?s just that it?s nice to see, instead of the deliberations of a committee, a couple of individuals? admiration for and faith in a performer to be the guiding light to the creation of a work.
In the early days of concertos, the polarity between the soloist and the orchestra was not as pronounced as it is now; in fact, the soloist usually played along with the orchestra in the tutti passages. The first time we hear the solo flute in this concerto, it is blended in with the whole woodwind section, and this happens several times in the first movement, alternating with sections that are more obviously soloistic. The mood is fast and driving throughout, as befits a toccata, whereas the second movement is a lyric and almost languid waltz. After the mostly flashy cadenza and the wistful cantilena, the unrelenting quality of the first movement returns even more furiously in the closing tarantella.

The Concerto for Flute and Orchestra was completed on November 15, 1990; the premiere performance took place on June 7, 1991 with Carol Wincenc and the Seattle Symphony conducted by Christopher Kendall. An extensive revision of the work was completed in August 1995.

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by Richard and Jody Nordlof for Carol Wicenc
Composition Date 1990
Duration 00:18:00
Orchestration Solo Fl.; 2 2 2 2 - 2 2 1 0; Timp. Perc. Str.
Premiere 7th June 1991. Carol Wincenc, flute, Seattle Symphony, Christopher Kendall, conductor.