Double Violin Concerto

David Horne (1970)

Double Violin Concerto 2003

two solo vlns + strings: 5vln.2vla.2vlc.1db

In writing my Double Violin Concerto, I constantly had the sound of the Scottish Ensemble in my mind. I was impressed not only with their sheer virtuosity (and this piece is extremely difficult) but also with the wonderful richness of their combined tone, which always makes them sound much larger than their numbers would indicate. This affected a lot of the musical ideas in the work which, while often complex on the surface, are based on certain traditions of virtuosic string writing- even clich├ęs if you like- rapid string crossing, double and multiple stops, and so on. I was attracted to the way many of these techniques could be superimposed to create exciting and energetic layers of sound. There was also an inherent musical tension for me in this, as I constructed harmonic ideas around the open strings and natural harmonics, or what would fit under the fingers. I had originally experimented with the idea of having two very different solo parts, in terms of character. This went through several versions, until eventually I felt much more drawn to the idea of treating the two solo violins as equal partners, sharing and developing the musical material together. This inevitably owes much to the masterwork in the genre, the Bach double concerto. Yet, it was the inextricably linked roles of the two soloists that then defined the layout of my own concerto, hence why I felt the absolute title was so appropriate. However, the work is in four movements, and each one has a descriptive title.

The first, Declamations, begins with the two violins weaving around each other with extreme virtuosity, punching out initially condensed motives that gradually expand. As with other recent concerto-like works of mine, I've been very interested in the role of the soloist (soloists in this case) as a musical catalyst, throwing out ideas which the accompanying ensemble or orchestra latch onto and develop. This occurs continuously in the first movement, where the ensemble constantly amplifies and reverberates (the allusion to electronic terms is intentional) the highly charged ideas from the two violins. The second movement, Mosaic, functions rather like a Scherzo, and while it begins deceptively simply with one of the soloists, successive layers are added until a rather more intricate picture emerges, explaining the title. The sedate opening gradually transforms into a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of colours and rhythms (all contained within the same basic pulse.) Towards the end of the movement, the two soloists 'lock' back into each other, as the rest of the ensemble evapourates.

The third movement Unbroken, is the calmest and most reflective of the piece. The soloists float over a continuous series of chords from the ensemble, occasionally punctured by rude pizzicati from the lower strings. The musical lines of the soloists at the opening of the movement are purposely so spaced out that the melodic contours are blurred, using only certain intervals to increase the becalmed effect. Towards the end of the movement, the rhythmic inertia of the soloists grows, seeming on the one hand to 'break' the flow of the movement, but at the same time, their more rapid intertwining indicates a musical bonding. The final movement, Grooves, is the most frenzied, with rapid configurations of rhythms, scales and arpeggi whirling around a pizzicato pulse. These are all governed by arithmetical series of different kinds, which gave me the sense of different narrow pathways, or grooves, which the musical ideas scurry along. The small theme initially heard with the entrance of the soloists is incessantly developed, fragmenting into small shards, contrasting icy harmonics with furious snap pizzicati and broken chords, until the work rushes to a close.

David Horne,
Manchester, April 2003

23.6.03 St Magnus Festival: Clio Gould, vln & dir / Jonathan Morton, vln / Scottish Ensemble
6.7.03 Cheltenham Festival: Clio Gould, vln & dir / Jonathan Morton, vln / Scottish Ensemble
29.1.05 Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow: Clio Gould, vln & dir / Jonathan Morton, vln / Scottish Ensemble
18.4.07 BBC Maida Vale, London: Clio Gould and Jonathan Morton, violins / BBC Symphony Orchestra / Clark Rundell
4-6.9.08 Scottish tour (Ballachulish, Tobermory, Dornach): Jonathan Morton and Clio Gould, violin / Scottish Ensemble
13/14.1.10 Kotka & Kouvola, Finland: Raymond Cox, Ulo Kaadu, violin / Kymi Sinfonietta / Yasuo Shinozaki
Violin II
Double bass