Concerto for 2 Flutes and Orchestra

Steven Stucky

Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

My appointment as Composer-in-Residence of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra included a commission from the sponsors of the residency, Meet the Composer, to write a new work for the orchestra. (I served in that post from 1988 until 1992, when I became New Music Advisor). I suggested that the work be a concerto featuring the Philharmonic?s principal flutists, Janet Ferguson and Anne Diener Giles, whose playing I have come to know very well. I was attracted not only by their superb artistry, but also by the appealing sonic possibilities of two flutes; most of the time in this concerto the soloists play together, forming a kind of super-flute that affords richer textural and expressive resources than any single instrument.

Like classical concertos, this concerto is in three movements, but it is less usual in some other respects. For one thing, the tempo sequence is reversed: slow-fast-slow instead of the usual fast-slow-fast. For another, the opening slow music is note merely an introduction but rather a substantial slow movement that constitutes the emotional heart of the work?an elegy for the Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski, who died only a few months before I began writing the work. He was not only my own mentor and friend but a beloved colleague of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Yet the first movement is not so much an expression of grief as it is an homage to the beauty and greatness of spirit Lutoslawski?s music embodies, and an attempt to honor him on his own terms by concentrating on the harmonic and melodic aspects of music that he held dear.

The shorter second and third movements move from this dark beginning towards brighter, more optimistic music. The second movement, ?Games,? is a scherzo in near-perpetual motion, whose materials (including lots of major and minor triads) are playful and sometimes quirky. The last movement, ?Hymn,? proceeds along two parallel tracks, almost as if two pieces were being played at once. The strings and horns play the ?hymn?: slow, serious, sustained, lyrical music that climbs during the course of the movements out of the depths of the doublebasses into the treble regions. At the same time, though, the solo flutes play another music entirely, a fast, capricious ?descant? seemingly at odds with its sober surroundings. As the movement goes on, the soloists win more and more of the orchestra over to their livelier music, until by the end the hymn has disappeared entirely, absorbed into the joyful clamor of the descant. Why ?Hymn?? Partly because the technical structure of the music has something in common with certain medieval church music, but mostly because it expresses hope and praise?inspired in my case not be religious feelings, but by the pleasure of spending my life making music and the privilege of collaborating with great musicians.

The Double Flute Concerto was composed from October to December of 1994. The first performance was given in Los Angeles on February 23, 1995.

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Scores & Parts

Concerto for Two Flutes and Orchestra - Set of Performace Parts and Score

Additional Information

Composition Date 1994
Duration 00:17:00
Orchestration 2Fl. soli; 0 2(E.H.) 2(EbCl./B.Cl) 2 - 2 2 1 0; Timp. Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Hp. Str.
Premiere February 23, 24, 26, 1995. Janet Ferguson and Anne Diener Giles, Flutes; the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.


I Elegy. Largo
II Game. Allegro giocoso
III Hymn. Adagio

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