Phaedrus

Ian McQueen (1954)

Phaedrus 1993

Duration 
30
Solist 
Genre 
Commissioner 

The concertino is a kind of virtuoso backing group for the solo pianist. Although there are three clear movements, the music has extra musical inspiration in the form of Robert Pirsig's 1975 cult novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This gives the music the quality of an onward-pushing musical "Road Movie"; a journey across the States, as well as through the inner experiences of the alter ego of the novel's protagonist, the eponymous Phaedrus. The solo pianist, to some extent, personifies this figure.

All this is not to say that abstract musical forms do not figure in the work. The pell-mell rush of the first movement is largely a variation sequence on Schubert's song "Erlk├Ânig". The second (slow) movement is a kind of "trio", involving intimate exchanges between the solo pianist, the concertino, and various delicately supported voices (e.g. bass trombone) within the orchestral groups. The finale sets elements of rondo and sonata form against each other to create a musical/psychological torrent.

Ian McQueen

Comments 

A concertino group of fl.2o.(=picc.); bass clar; alto sax in Eb; tpt 2o (=flugel horn) and vibraphone surrounds the solo pianist.
The rest of the orchestra is divided into 3 groups (apart from the timpani and strings) which are to be spatially separated:
Group One: fl1o; 2 obs; clar in Bb; 4 horns; 2bsns; contra bsn [stage centre].
Group Two: tpt 1o; 2 tbns; perc 1o [stage right].
Group Three: tpt 3o; bass tbn; tuba [stage left].

Performances 
18.3.93 Glasgow: Clive Swansbourne / BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
2
Flute
2nd doubling piccolo
2
Oboe
2
Clarinet
2nd bass clarinet
1
Saxophone
alto saxophone
3
Bassoon
3rd contrabassoon
4
Horn
3
Trumpet
2nd doubling flugel horn
3
Trombone
3rd bass trombone
1
Tuba
1
Timpani
2
Percussion
vibraphone
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