Robin Hollowy: Fifth Concerto for Orchestra
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Following a gap-year of Haydn and Brahms transcriptions, heavy-duty original composition resumed in 2009 with a commission from the BBC for Donald Runnicles and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra for the 2010 Proms. Fearful that an ambitious new piece might not be ready in time, I asked for the premiere to be deferred till the year after.

Then I set to work on my Fifth Concerto for Orchestra. The commission was very firm that this new piece not be an epic like its predecessor. Which in fact suited my own inclination: no point whatever in doing another on the same scale. Rather, the lessons learnt in immediate reaction to it now yielded their reward in a new spirit of concentration and brevity. And the recent orchestration of Brahms op 34, undertaken with such ardent identification as often to feel (if I dare say such an absurdity) as though I were composing it too, also fed into the new piece (much as scoring Debussy's en blanc et noir back in 2002 had excited and eased the original composition of the Fourth Concerto.

Another source or the Fifth Concerto goes way back to the First, written in the mid-to-late 1960s. The account given here under op. 8 can now be brought up to date. What began in re-copying the old thing with sensible, pracitcal re-notation of its considerable difficulties, ended up, in its second half, with a complete overhaul, effortfully concluded over Christmas 2008 - New Year 2009.

Determination not to compromise the abrasive all-dissonant constructivism of the 1960s with anything sweeter and lighter acquired since, reduced the peculiar sense of pastiching another composer altogether. But there must inevitably be continuities as well as contradictions, and there's no doubt that intense immersion in the First Concerto's idiom and technique also contributed enormously to the Fifth Concerto, begun exactly 40 years after the First had been finished.

What slowly came into being was new for me in its concentration and—here and there—its extreme density. Like Manhattan, sprawl being impossible, it builds high into the sky and deep into the rock.

The main work on the Fifth Concerto was over summer 2009. Towards rthe end of this year I had two smaller commissions, the first all in good time (Partita, op. 108), the second something of a surprise and an emercency (Reliquary, op. 109).

the image below is © Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Limited 2011

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