Showpiece was written over the turn of 1982-3 at once as a celebration for the 40th anniversary of the Society for the Promotion of New Music, and as a genial vehicle for the collective and individual virtuosity of the London Sinfonietta. It is in fact a miniature concerto for orchestra; and I often had the particular player’s style and physical presence in mind when writing.
There are three sections, played without a break. The first (allegro vigoroso) is a kind of concerto grosso movement, with many returns to the opening ritornello (never quite the same), each one setting off a brief characteristic solo for every instrument in turn (except the piano and the percussion who are the texture’s "continuo").
The second (andante molto) again has a solo for each player; this time a free improvisatory line set against a background of mechanical repeat-patterns held together, as they pass from family to family, by a percussion continuo-continuum. The piano rests, but is given a moment of display in a cadenza before the tutti close. The third section begins by returning to the opening ritornello but very soon takes a different course; the piece ends in flutters and fireworks (increasingly evanescent apart from one explosion) that have no thematic connexion with what has gone before.
Robin Holloway, 1983
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer