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Musical Interaction in Concertante Situations



This article focuses on musical interaction between the soloist and the orchestra in my compositions Piano Concerto (2008) and Swap – Chamber Concerto for Saxophone and Chamber Orchestra (2012-13).

Comparing these two concertos is very revealing. First of all, the profile of the orchestral accompaniment and its individual parts is higher in the Saxophone Concerto than in the Piano Concerto, which was written four years earlier, for the most part before my doctoral studies. Secondly, the relationship between the soloist and the orchestra is also more versatile and their mutual interaction richer in the Saxophone Concerto (called Swap later in this article).

I started composing the Piano Concerto with a traditional heroic concerto in mind. However, having written its first two movements, I wanted to challenge the straightforward relationship between the soloist and the orchestra. The new focus resulted in at least two passages in the final movement which I would probably have omitted or written differently a couple of months earlier. The two passages, the imitative opening and the final “fight” between the soloist and conductor will both be discussed below.

Delta de l'Ebre ©Maria Ivanova

Delta de l’Ebre ©Maria Ivanova

Four years later, when the saxophone concerto project started, I wanted to extend the musical interaction into the relationship between individual orchestral members and the soloist, in addition to the juxtaposition of the soloist and the whole orchestra. Besides, the saxophone as a solo instrument could easily be integrated in the orchestral sound, which made the hierarchy between the solo and the orchestra less self-evident. This way it soon became obvious that the concertos framing the works of my doctoral studies would differ greatly from one another. Many of the differences and similarities will be analysed below, focusing on interaction between the soloist and the orchestra.

Brief description

In the following, I will first define musical interaction and my approaches towards this subject matter. Section 5 presents the main concepts and the criteria for the mutual hierarchy of the soloist and the orchestra in a concertante situation. The categories of this hierarchy are presented via musical examples in section 7.

It should be emphasized that the presented examples are taken out of their original context, and the commentaries restrict themselves to the very essential: analysis of the musical interaction in a concerto situation. I mainly use a short score (it. particelli), where the orchestral staves are condensed into three or four staves in order to save space and simplify the reading. The score is written in C, thus the saxophone part is not transposed.

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