Duration: ca. 21 minutes
For solo harp, strings, and percussion
Introduction and Three Movements, played without pause
Co-Commissioned by Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Badisches Staatskapelle Karlsruhe, Metropolis Ensemble, The Phillips Collection, and San Jose Chamber Orchestra
This concerto draws on myriad influences to highlight the different colors and virtuosic possibilities for harp, including highly rhythmic sections involving intricate finger work, as well prepared sections in the third movement spotlighting the bass register of the instrument.
A brief introduction starts the work, three long phrases cascading from the top of the harp and orchestra’s range to the bottom, introducing the main sonorities of the work. A brief harp solo signals the start of the first movement, which begins with a quotation from a Thai chakhe (plucked zither) melody. The movement features polytonal passages and ornate figurations and slides to give an earthier and more dissonant take to the melodic line. The middle section of the first movement, in constant mixed meters, includes a tight interplay between harp and orchestra that grows in intensity and climaxes with a return of the chakhe theme.
The second movement highlights the harp’s lyrical and ruminative side, with a long spun-out melody accompanied by muted strings. The melodic line grows into an orchestral interlude, in which the harpist presents brash dissonant attacks that interrupt the lyrical flow of the strings. A harp cadenza ensues, juxtaposing the contemplative sections with more aggressive outbreaks.
A percussion interlude allows for a transition to the third movement, in which the harpist inserts paper in between the lowest strings, muting them to create a “thump” that is reminiscent of a bass guitar. The opening passage transforms the harp into a percussive instrument, with knocks and scrapes interwoven into a jazzy bass harp line. The third movement alternately pays homage to and pokes fun at traditional harp music, with a waltz and a “dysfunctional tango” interwoven into the coolness of the low bass harp. The third movement also brings back fragments of previous movements, and throughout the dance sections, outbursts of those fragments turn the movement into a schizophrenic collision of the different personalities of the work. A long buildup brings the concerto to a fiery and intense close.
Get our latest update via email
You can purchase or rent my music at Bill Holab Music
For general inquiries, just click below!CONTACT US