Concerto for Horn

Anthony Powers (1953)

Concerto for Horn 1991

3333/4331/timp/3 perc (mar, sleigh bells, SD, 2 bongos, 3 tom (low, med, high), TD, BD, 3 sus cym (sm, med, large), 3 tam (med large, large, v large), whip, flex, xylo, vib, glock, tub bells)/hp/cel/strings
Duration 
24
Solist 
Genre 

All concertos are about the relationship of the one to the many, an individual (soloist) to society (orchestra). In certain important ways no music can ever be 'about' anything specific, and its real value is diminished by such direct association. Nonetheless this concerto was a result of certain experiences and these inform it, however much the piece has to go, first and foremost, on its own musical way. This concerto is a response to visits I made to Czechoslovakia in 1986 and 1988. Whilst the music does not tell a story or dramatise a situation, the experience of an individual, at odds with his political context and attempting to subvert or transform it, is fundamental.
In the first part of the work, called Madrigals of Love and War the soloist is almost always in conflict with the orchestra and only able to 'sing' with other individuals or small groups. But his efforts are snuffed out by the increasingly aggressive orchestra, at first divided into two factions, finally united against him. The second part, Winter Journeys, is a slow process of regaining lost ground and re-building a rapport. The soloist leads the orchestra from desolation towards a new and serene prospect and an exuberant close where the music which was extinguished by the first orchestral outburst of the work is now secure and confident.
The outlines of the piece were in place, and some of the music sketched, when I heard that Libor Pesek, music director of both the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Czech Philharmonic orchestras, would conduct the first performance in 1990. This was an auspicious and gratifying co-incidence! But, towards the end of the composing, the events of autumn 1989 in Prague (and of course elsewhere!) showed reality overtaking art and suddenly the 'scenario' of the work had become extremely topical. The concerto seemed to be, on one level at least, a history, in music, of Czechoslovakia from 1968 to 1989.
To learn, as it happened within minutes of making the final corrections to the full score, of cancellation of the premiere was bitterly disappointing. I can only hope that the piece will be heard soon for its impact can only be strengthened in the context of those dramatic events.

©Anthony Powers

Performances 
16.10.92 Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool: Michael Thompson (horn )/ Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Libor Pesek
3
Flute
3
Oboe
3
Clarinet
3
Bassoon
4
Horn
3
Trumpet
3
Trombone
1
Tuba
1
Timpani
3
Percussion
marimba, sleigh bells, side drum, 2 bongos, 3 tom-toms (low, medium, high), tenor drum, bass drum, 3 suspended cymbals, 3 tam-tams, whip, flexatone, xylophone, vibraphone, glockenspiel, tubular bells
1
Harp
1
Piano
celesta
(Esc)