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Concerto for the violin with percussion orchestra

1959-1940 (as inscribed by the composer)

This work, which is inscribed 1959-1940 is also entitled Koncerto por la violono kun percuta orkestra (in Esperanto, of which Harrison was a fervent advocate and expressing the world-view inherent in the work). This odd method of dating is probably meant to suggest that the work, reflecting his interest in world music and percussion, was conceived early on, but was completed later, after Harrison had turned away from twelve-tone serialism and revived those earlier concerns. It was first performed in New York’s Town Hall in 1959 by the violinist Anahid Ajemian, to whom it is dedicated. There are five percussionists and an interesting and very original variety of percussion instruments. Sometimes this percussion work is rhythmic and incisive, but often it is delicately and coloristically scored, in the manner of a gamelan. Against this textured wall of sound, the violin stands out in high relief as intensely melodic—although it is often rhythmic and colouristic as well, with the highly original sound of the double bass laid on its back with the strings hit on both sides of the bridge, creating fascinating ostinati especially in the first Allegro. “East meets West” is very much the theme of this musical discourse.

Instrumentation: violin, 12 brakedrums, 6 flowerpots, plumbers pipe, damped plumbers pipe, wind chimes (glass & metal), 2 sistra, temple blocks, dustbins, spring coils, cymbals, congas, gongs, double bass laid on its back and struck with sticks, snare drum, tom toms, maracas, 2 triangles, tin cans. This performance features Karen Hutt on percussion.

from notes by Eric Salzman © 2007


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Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Largo cantabile
Movement 3: Allegro vigoroso, poco presto

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