Common Threads: Concerto for Orchestra

Instrumentation 2(2nd db. picc)/2/2(2nd dbl. bcl)/2; 4/2/3/0; timp + 2 perc; orchestral strings
Percussion requirements (1) chimes, glock, snare dr, sm. bass dr., cabasa, castanets, bell tree, brake dr, sandpaper blocks, ratchet, 3 tamtams (s/m/l); (2) vib, glock (share with 1), snare dr (share with 1), lg. bass dr, susp. cymbal, sizzle cymbal, 2 temple bowls, 3 woodblocks (h/m/l), 3 temple blocks (m/m-l/l), triangle, whip, watergong

Timing 18′ in four movements

Composed 1999

Commissioned by Music Canada Musique 2000 for the Windsor Symphony with the support of the Canada Millennium Partnership Program and assistance from the Ontario Arts Council

World Premiere January 29, 2000, Cleary International Centre Chrysler Theatre, Windsor, Ontario. Windsor Symphony; Susan Haig, conductor

Performances by Windsor Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Toronto Symphony, South Dakota Symphony, Florida Orchestra

Programme Notes

Approach
Conflict
Contemplation
Union

The concerto for orchestra finds its roots in the concerto grosso of the Baroque period, which made its musical point through the stile concertato — the dramatic contrast and opposition of different groups or soloists within the ensemble. The term concerto itself has been traced to several possible origins: concertare (to fight); conserere (to unite); and conserto (intertwined). Together these terms evoke the idea of an ensemble whose diverse members are yet inextricably linked — diversity within unity. Common Threads: Concerto for Orchestra explores this diversity while finding connections that bind the orchestra together.

This work is cast in four movements. The first three shorter movements comprise the first half of the piece, while the substantial fourth movement comprises the second half. The titles of the movements suggest the overall theme of each. In the first movement, Approach, the concertmaster, in an extended solo, is gradually drawn into the sound of the string section, which is then merged triumphantly with the rest of the orchestra. The woodwinds that end this movement then provide the link to the second movement, Conflict. This dance movement contrasts the woodwind section’s playful jig with the fiery rhythmic propulsion of the strings, interrupted briefly by a macabre off-kilter waltz. The third movement, Contemplation, opens with an expressive bass clarinet solo, accompanied by percussion and the ghostly sound of four celli. The full orchestra joins in, then this subdued movement closes with a muted brass chorale.

The brass section then ushers in the final movement, Union. Various ideas from the previous movements are brought back, transformed and contrasted, featuring the different and various families within the orchestra and several solo, duo, and small group combinations. The extroverted outer sections are contrasted with a more introverted middle section, featuring an extended horn solo to complement the concertmaster’s solo from the very beginning of the piece. Ultimately, in a closing gesture of unity, the entire orchestra comes together in an emphatic unison A — the pitch to which the ensemble tunes at the beginning of each new musical adventure.

Common Threads: Concerto for Orchestra was commissioned for the Windsor Symphony by Music Canada Musique 2000 (Nicholas Goldschmidt, artistic director), with the support of the Canada Millennium Partnership Program and with the generous assistance of the Ontario Arts Council.

Reviews

The world premiere of Jeffrey Ryan’s compellling Common Threads, A Concerto for Orchestra confirmed the [Windsor Symphony’s] role as a leader in introducing new and innovative works by Canadian composers. …The performance last Saturday of Ryan’s composition will be broadcast on national radio…Try to tape it. The work is an infectious and often exhilarating survey of the orchestra. …Ryan’s work inspired a standing ovation by the local audience, much of which had been drawn by the likes of Mozart and Bach on the program. Its immediacy and colourful use of the orchestra’s strengths made it an instant hit. (Ted Shaw/The Windsor Star)

PDF excerpts

Approach excerpt   Conflict excerpt   Contemplation excerpt   Union excerpt

Audio excerpts

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