Concerto No. 1 for Timpani and Orchestra

William Kraft

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Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

When Thomas Akins first called to tell me about the commission, I told him I doubted that the timpani could sustain sufficient musical interest for a full-blown concerto and suggested a five-movement suite containing movements of contrasting character. However, when I began actual composition, I realized I had found the concept, the material, and the structure that would make a large three-movement concerto.

Before commencing any actual writing, I met with Mr. Akins in Indianapolis to get acquainted with him and his whole approach to playing the timpani, and to discuss various ideas. One fruitful idea that came from that discussion was the use of gloves with differing materials clothing the fingers. Knowing that two beautiful works of Delius were to precede the Concerto, I wanted the Concerto to grow out of the serenity of the Delius as it established its own identity. Therefore we looked for the softest method of playing. From sticks we went to hands, and from hands to fingers, and from fingers to gloves with different coverings. The reverse order of this exhibits a vital part of the construction of the first movement, i.e., starting with felt-covered fingers, the timpanist moves to leather, then to the whole hand, and then to sticks of increasingly hard coverings, until we have reached uncovered wood.

Likewise, the musical material grows. Beginning with a timpani cadenza that itself unfolds from a solitary note, other instruments are gradually added in an interplay with the soloist until the entire orchestra is involved. The first movement was completed on my birthday, September 6, at the MacDowell Colony ? where, indeed, except for the first half of the first movement, the entire Concerto was written.

The second movement is dedicated to my mother, who died September 12, 1983, during its composition. It is titled ?Poem for Timpani, Two String Orchestras, Celeste and Percussion.? Ideally, the strings are divided into two separate sections: ?A? on stage right, ?B? on stage left, or ?A? front stands, ?B? rear stands. Considering one of the idiomatic techniques of the timpani, the movement is based on glissandi.

The third movement is built on a four-note motive, the complete theme being first written for the timpani to establish its idiomatic character, and then set in various ways for the orchestra. However, in its final realization it is first expressed by the orchestra ? particularly in the brass. Without a prior intention, the movement emerged into rondo form, climaxing in a brief timpani cadenza just before the very end.

I would like to thank Thomas Akins, Percussion Projects, John Nelson, and the Indianapolis Symphony, as well as the MacDowell Colony, for their various roles in brining the Concerto not only to actuality, but also to a most successful and, to me, meaningful premiere.

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by Indiana Percussion Projects, Inc.
Composition Date 1983
Duration 00:23:10
Orchestration Solo Timp.; 2(2Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2 2 - 4 3 3 1; 3Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Hp. Str.
Premiere March 9th, 1984. Thomas Akins, timpani, Indianapolis Symphony, conducted by John Nelson, Indianapolis, IN.

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