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Hayes, Morgan: Violin Concerto. Rental

Full score and instrumental material
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Ref: HL378 ISMN: 9790220221699 Categories: , , , , By:


Duration: 16 minutes
For solo violin, flute/piccolo, cor anglais, clarinet in B flat/clarinet in E flat/bass clarinet, bassoon/contrabassoon, horn, trumpet in C, trombone, percussion (one player), harp, piano, two violins, viola, cello and double bass

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Commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group with financial assistance from Arts Council England, West Midlands and investors through BCMG’s Sound Investment scheme
1st perf: Keisuke Okazaki (violin), Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Franck Ollu (cond), CBSO Centre, Birmingham, 9 May 2006

Programme Note

The Cadenza which occurs towards the end of the concerto partly takes its cue from Lucky’s preposterous speech in Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’……up ‘til that point in the play (quite far in, as I remember) Lucky has been ominously silent, then all of a sudden pours forth this great torrent of gibberish. The Violin soloist in my concerto has been anything but mute (almost constantly in action)but never quite gets a foothold, battling against massive tuttis, fierce brass interjections and (at the start)consigned to an almost chamber music like role.

The starting point for the Cadenza was to put all the fast passage work end to end: continuous, as opposed to intermittent flourishes, and the ensemble quiet for the duration, very much in the background. Here, the interjections are friendly rather than threatening in any way.

In a sense this work is partly about previous violin concertos (hence the abstract title):snatches of the past repertoire get washed up in the flotsam along with a structural underpinning, of the significant difference between flat keys (the opening is in Bb) and sharp keys (later ,large portions in E major) on all stringed instruments.

The juxtapositions of soloist against ensemble are no less extreme than the idioms which are embraced: the sweet modality of the opening quickly collides with more jarring tonalities.
© 2006 Morgan Hayes

Perusal Score

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Morgan Hayes has written several works of a concertante nature, but his latest piece for soloist and ensemble is unambiguously entitled ‘Violin Concerto’ and presents the soloist with a commanding, virtuoso part. Dedicatee Keisuke Okazaki grasped the opportunities for technical display with thrilling intensity in the world premiere…

A beautiful, arching melody in B flat for soloist and languid duet for cor anglais and clarinet proved to be atypical: the remainder of the concerto was dominated by spiky, rhythmic utterances with a marked improvisatory quality and a torrent of manic activity from the soloist.

A section entitled Mechanico initiated a potent rhythmic riff, but the crowning moment in the concerto was the cathartic solo cadenza. Consciously mirroring the effect of Lucky’s torrential monologue in Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’, this solo outpouring gathered together in one continuous statement the brilliant passagework that hitherto had been spasmodic, ramshackle and unhinged.
Paul Conway, Tempo, October 2006

Theatre is proving a valuable source of inspiration for composer Morgan Hayes. The starting point for his Proms orchestral piece last summer was a National Theatre production of Shakespeare’s Pericles, and now his new violin concerto, introduced by soloist Keisuke Okazaki and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, turns out to have been triggered by an episode in Beckett’s Waiting For Godot. The moment in that play when the previously silent Lucky suddenly finds a voice and launches into a stream of gibberish, Hayes reveals, corresponds in his single-movement concerto to the solo-violin cadenza that arrives just before the end of the work, unifying in a coherent musical statement all the virtuoso passage work that previously has only been heard in fragments.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 11 May, 2006

No season from the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group goes by without its fair share of both new works and revivals commissioned under the organisation’s pioneering “Sound Investment” scheme, which here had made possible the first performance of the Violin Concerto by Morgan Hayes.

Such a title might seem unexpected in an age that prefers to cover its generic tracks, but Hayes is explicit in his description of the work as a dialogue with concerto form: one that is itself centred on the relationship between the one and the many, unfolded in a single movement that embodies a wide range of discourse over its 16-minute span. Aspects of the violin repertoire – at both a technical and expressive level – play a part in this diversity, though whether the (to quote the composer) “complex modality” that holds conflicting tonal elements in check is fully audible was unclear at a first hearing. Moreover, the degree of incident in even the more restrained passages meant the distinction between tension and relaxation was often at a premium – limiting the release effected by the cadenza towards the close, with the analogy of Lucky’s verbal meltdown in “Waiting for Godot” a tenuous one at best.

What did impress was the translucent scoring for a varied ensemble, and the skill with which Keisuke Okazaki – his deft and mellifluous tone a real asset in this music – dovetailed the solo line so that a concerto rhetoric emerged from the music rather than as an emotional adjunct. Franck Ollu secured committed playing from BCMG, giving the piece a formal coherence it might otherwise have lacked.
Richard Whitehouse,

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