Concerto Grosso

Peder Holm
9+ instr
A4, 49 pages

The Concerto Grosso for string quartet and symphonic ensemble is from 1990 (with subsequent revisions from 1995) and was commissioned by the Danish Radio for the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Kronos Quartet. The symphonic ensemble consists of eight winds, ten brass, harp and piano, four percussion, and two double basses (but no other strings!); it functions as a kind of tutti vis á vis the string quartet’s concertino. The sound and content of the work is highly varied, ranging between the extremes of tempestuous brutality and introvert understatement; here the listener is transported far away from the almost puritan restraint of New Simplicity as it was in the sixties. Thus, the string quartet is “allowed to exploit the sound of the instruments and to articulate itself with artistic refinement,” and it is “surrounded by wild sound bodies, almost like a jungle.” Though the macrostructure is a single unbroken whole with a certain suggestion of arching form, the music is clearly subdivided into shorter sections or even movements, recognizably identified by the different instruments and groups of instruments with which the string quartet interacts. Incidentally, the title of the work refers not just to the opposition of tutti and concertino but to the presence of other more or less obvious baroque clichŽs (cf. the composer’s characterization: “Vivaldi on Safari”). Among these are ritornelli and the occasional employment of straightforward functional harmony, which is especially noticeable halfway through. Everything, however, has passed through Gudmundsen-Holmgreen’s special filter, which fascinatingly transforms “the well known” into “the apparently well known.” Baroque‑like concertante sections, jazzy chords, passages of fragile transparency etc. are in reality all different realizations of a common base material. Though only six or seven years old this work has already acquired the status of a modern Danish classic. It has been performed in Stockholm and Oslo among other places, and in 1996 the jury chose it for inclusion in the programme of the ISCM Festival in Copenhagen.





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