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tam-t/slapstick/t.bells/SD/TD/tamb/vib/BD/sandpaper blks/rute-harp-strings

Abbreviations (PDF)


Boosey & Hawkes (Hendon Music)

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


World Premiere
Detroit, MI
Carol Wincenc, flute / Detroit Symphony Orchestra / Hans Vonk
Composer's Notes

Although no universal credence for the Jungian concept of "genetic memory" exists, for me it seems a profoundly viable notion. Although both of my parents' families immigrated to America well before the Revolutionary War, I nonetheless still feel a deep ancestral tug of recognition whenever I am exposed to the arts and traditions of the British Isles, particularly those of Celtic origin.

I have attempted to reflect my responses to these stimuli in my flute concerto, a five-movement work cast in a somewhat loose arch form. The first and last movements bear the title Amhrán (Gaelic for song) and are simple melodic elaborations for the solo flute over the accompaniment of orchestral strings. They were intended in a general way to evoke the traditions of Celtic, especially Irish, folk music but to couch the musical utterance in what I hoped would seem a more spiritual, even metaphysical, manner through the use of extremely slow tempi, perhaps not unlike some of the recordings of the Irish singer Enya.

The second and fourth movements are both fast in tempo. The second is a rather sprightly march which shares some of its material with the fourth, a scherzo which refers more and more as it progresses to that most Irish of dances, the jig. However, by the time the jig is stated in its most obvious form, the tempo has increased to the point that the music seems almost frantic and breathless in nature.

In a world of daily horrors too numerous and enormous to comprehend en masse, it seems that only isolated, individual tragedies serve to sensitize us to the potential harm man can do to his fellow. For me, one such instance was the abduction and brutal murder of the two-year old English lad James Bulger at the hands of a pair of ten-year old boys. I followed this case closely during the time I was composing my concerto and was unable to shake the horror of these events from my mind. The central movement of this work is an elegy dedicated to James Bulger's memory, a small token of remembrance for a life senselessly and cruelly snuffed out.

I completed my flute concerto in Fairport, New York on August 15, 1993, and it was composed through a joint commission from Richard and Jody Nordlof (for Carol Wincenc) and Borders Inc. (for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra). Its duration is approximately twenty-three minutes.

The orchestra required for the concerto's performance consists of three flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons (2nd doubling on contrabassoon), four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, harp, timpani, percussion (three players), and strings. The percussion contingent consists of glockenspiel, xylophone, chimes, vibraphone, suspended cymbal, a pair of crash cymbals, rute, sandpaper blocks, tam-tam, tenor drum, snare drum, bass drum, and tambourine.

— Christopher Rouse

Reproduction Rights:
This program note may be reproduced free of charge in concert programs with a credit to the composer.

Recommended Recording

Carol Wincenc/Houston Symphony/
Christoph Eschenbach
Telarc CD-80452

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