Double Concerto, op. 68The Spacious Firmament, op. 69Entrance: Carousing: Embarkation, op. 71
back to top

The 1980s receded in another spell of great perturbation and confusion.  These three, and the Violin Concerto, op. 70, are all substantial pieces, with one exception extremely demanding to write, and all four got in each other's way, crossing the wires, pulling in contradictory directions. 

The huge span of Entrance: Carousing: Embarkation for the massive massed woodwinds, brasses and percussions of the U.S.A. style symphonic band was also fraught with trouble despite the piece's extrovert nature and abrasive exuberance. 

Only The Spacious Firmament was written with fluency and pleasure: helped by having words, of course.  It caused deep chagrin that this commission for the inauguration of the Rattle / Birmingham Symphony Hall wasn't in the event used for the occasion ("the Royal Bladder", offered as reason, seemed more like excuse).  The special words to go with Dryden's salute to Harmony at the start seemed pointless in later performances (they are in fact optional).  Though Blake's Auguries of Innocence will never lose its sting;  nor the vision of the Peaceable Kingdom that follows, its milk-and-honey sweetness;  nor the concluding vision from Tennyson of the planets and the epochs rolling their eternal courses, its grandeur.

Worst was the Double Concerto, another attempt at "all-modern" intervallic / proportional construction without stylistic allusion or play of quotation.  In the end it was recourse to these that saved the endeavour from dying of self-boa-constriction (up its own thingmajig).  The most futile effort of all was prolonged pursuit of an extended finale wherein the two soloists, who'd alternated throughout the first movement and come erotically together in the second, would tear each other apart in violent destruction — hence the working title Cockfight.  Eventually the two-movement shape sufficed: but it took ages, and much useless labour and worry, to reach this obvious conclusion. 

back to top
back to top back to top
profile page compositions page transcriptions page links page email Robin Holloway
back to top