Thursday, 4 June 2015

Alan Ridout: Concertante Music for orchestra (1967)

Alan Ridout (1934-1996) composed Concertante Music for orchestra in 1967. It was the same year as his Symphony No.4 for wind brass and percussion.  The work was commissioned by the Loughborough University of Technology (now Loughborough University) specifically for the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra (LSSO). Other music written by Ridout for this orchestra included his Symphony No.2 and the Dance-Drama 'Funeral Games for a Greek Warrior'. In 1964 Ridout had Three Pictures of Picasso performed by the LSSO to considerable acclaim.   
In early 1967 there was a need for a short ten-minute work to fill up the recording time of the forthcoming Pye Golden Guinea LP featuring the LSSO. Eric Pinkett, Music Adviser for Leicestershire, in his study of the orchestra, A Time to Remember, recalled that Michael Tippett had been ‘firmly convinced that some of Alan Ridout’s (a former student of Tippett) music should be on record... [as] his music was so essentially right for the orchestra…’ Unfortunately, all of Ridout’s music in their repertoire was ‘far too long’ for the new LP. 
The Leicester Mercury (July 1967) reported that Concertante Music resulted from a telephone conversation between the composer and Pinkett. Ridout is quoted as saying, ‘I had an idea before I put the phone down. The work was composed within 24 hours - that included sleep - and there remained the job of preparing a full score. That's navvies' work and it took four days.’ Concertante Music had ‘the remarkable distinction of proceeding from conception, writing, copying, rehearsing to recording in exactly four weeks’ (Leicester Mercury, June 1967)  The same article quoted the composer as saying that it was one of the ‘most exciting’ compositions he had written.
Ridout sent pages of the score to Pinkett as he completed them so that the parts could be copied out and learnt ‘all in good time.’

Concertante Music is a simple A-B-A-coda form. However the juxtaposition of instrumental groupings as well as the relatively complex sequence of time signatures (9/8, 11/8 and 12/8) tend to submerge the straightforward structure of the work. The opening is lively and rhythmically vivacious with considerable instrumental colour. There is an exciting passage for two trombones which is heard in a different guise later in the work. The middle section is introverted, with lugubrious passages from the string and woodwind sections. A beautiful violin and cello phrase emerges before the opening section is reprised in full. There is a short but dynamic Bernstein-like coda. The sound of the work could be described as ‘spicy dissonant’, especially in the ‘slow’ section. The main characteristic of the Concertante music is sheer dynamism and exuberance with major co

The recording of Concertante Music was made by the LSSO in the De Montfort Hall, Leicester during July 1967.  It was conducted by the composer. The record was released on the Pye Golden Guinea GGC 4103 mono, GSGC 14103 stereo. A restored version of this LP has been produced by Klassic Haus Restorations.
The album also included Michael Tippett’s ‘Birthday Suite for Prince Charles’ (1948), William Mathias's Sinfonietta (1967), and the Divertimento (1950, rev.1957) by Malcolm Arnold. These works were conducted by their respective composers. I will examine the Arnold and the Mathias in subsequent posts.
Concertante Music's first public performance was shortly afterwards during the orchestra’s visit to Copenhagen and Odense.

There were a number of reviews of the new LP. Audio and Record Recording (March 1968) suggested that ‘…the Ridout has some intriguing rhythmic juxtapositions….’ Records and Recording (March 1968) thought that Concertante Music was ‘...astringent [and] generates a good deal of motor excitement.’ Unusually there does not appear to be a review in The Gramophone magazine.
Concertante Music for orchestra has been uploaded to YouTube.

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