david horne

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first performance: May 7, 2002

venue: Guildhall, Preston

performer(s): Evelyn Glennie OBE, percussion, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Gerard Schwarz

scoring: 3(II=afl, III=picc).2.corA.2(II=Ebcl).bcl.2.dbn- glsp/mar/4tom-t/2wdbl/tam-t/vib/small 5susp.cym (2 small, 1medium, 2large)/5 tpl.bl/whip/TD/BD/claves/crot-harp-perc solo: 4 tom-t/2 bongos/BD/5 tpl.bl/3 cow bells/vib/mar/crot-strings

click here for pdf of score (1st 12 pages)- will open in new window

programme note:

Ignition is a concerto for solo percussionist and orchestra. Evelyn Glennie, to whom the work is dedicated, has in large part defined for me the modern percussionist. This, alongside having previously written a solo work for her, made the process of writing the solo part and immensely enjoyable one. While I've long been attracted to the variety of percussion instruments available to modern composers, my overriding concern in writing this work was to make it as full on a musical level as possible. In a sense, there are actually two concertos in this piece. There is the highly virtuosic solo part, and there is also a highly involved orchestral role, a 'concerto for orchestra' if you like. The soloist and the orchestra are inextricably linked however, their roles are not so much of soloist and accompanist as it is soloist and 'imitators.' This is linked to the title, which deliberately conjures up several images. Perhaps most obvious is the allusion to starting up a car. In this case, the soloist is the protagonist, starting each movement, but the 'engine' of the orchestra quickly builds up momentum, at times building up intricate independent structures. The way in which ideas spark of the soloist and 'ignite' in the orchestra is also alluded to by the title. The five movements of the work are approximately equal in length and last about 25 minutes in total. While there is no pause between movements, they are of such contrasting character that the breaks should be clear. Basically, the order of movements is fast-slow-fast-slow-fast.

The first movement is the most brutal of the set, beginning with loud tom-toms in the solo part, leading into punctured brass interjections. In a sense there is no orchestration as such in this movement, in that there is purposely little use of colour. The soloist only plays untuned instruments here, as do the three percussionists in the orchestra. Likewise the use of the other instruments is very percussive, with few extended thematic ideas, but lots of sharp punctuated rhythmic lines. Rhythm is the musical driving force, and there is a constantly shifting pulse of cross rhythms giving the effect of the movement being in several tempos at once. There are many numerical games at play as well, including primes and fibonacci, most of which won't be apparent to the listener, nor do they need to be. However, these various processes contribute to the constant agitation in the movement. The second movement is a complete contrast to the first. Here, the soloist plays only crotales and vibraphone, which are only ever bowed, not struck with mallets. The entire orchestra mimics this through a gently shifting series of inhalations and expirations, the sustained and subtle cushions of sound being in marked contrast to the spiky and brittle textures of the previous movement. The effect however, is cool and detached, icy even.

The third movement, now taking the soloist to the marimba, is mercurial and scherzo-like. The musical material is developed primarily from the musical letters EEGEEECSS- EvElyn GlEnniE, pErCuSSion. (S being the synonym for E flat in German notation.) The orchestration here is kaleidoscopic, and the relationship between the soloist and orchestra accelerates towards the end of the movement at a dizzying speed until the music evaporates. Towards the end of the movement, the harmonic language involves a great deal of major and minor triads, mostly superimposed to make more complex chords. This is a feature of the music which will eventually dominate through to the end. The fourth movement, in stark contrast to the rest of the piece, is essentially one long melodic line which weaves in and out of tuned and untuned percussion in the solo part, and through various lights and shades in the orchestra. There is also a haunting canon between seemingly mismatched instruments, including high bassoon, low piccolo and marimba in one instance. In particular, I wanted the soloist's playing of the various drums in this movement to sound as close to melody as possible- the apparent contradiction of this, and certainly the contrast to the eruptive nature of the drums in the first movement being something I wanted to exploit.

The final movement is the most exuberant and constantly energetic. It's a rather crazy perpetuum mobile in which the material increasingly becomes more strident. While I tend to think of my own music in abstract terms, I was aware that a darker mood was permeating the earlier movements. Although the musical material here is a development of that which had been ongoing throughout the whole piece, there was a concerted effort on my part to throw away some of the earlier gloom. While much of the earlier ignitions in the piece lead to darker outcomes, the end of the piece explodes with a rush of energy and light.

David Horne, January 2002

selected press reviews:

"David Horne has produced an impressive new percussion concerto for Evelyn Glennie. Serious and free of gimmicks, yet not short of display and immediacy…In each of his five movements, Horne has his soloist and orchestra punning timbrally. The Energetic opening matches splintery drum writing with extreme orchestral aggression, and the incantory Utterly calm echoes the sound of bowed antique cymbals and vibraphones with ethereal string harmonics. And so on, through a scurrying scherzo… a becalmed slow movement, and a manic finale…Evelyn Glennie’s charisma is easy to take for granted, but should not be. She was magnificent."

Daily Telegraph

"The revelation was Horne’s supreme command of timbre; the way he kept finding imaginative, surprising sounds, and let soloist and orchestra deliciously tease, echo, and chase each others’ tail… in the first movement, where the music arrived stripped to the bare bones of rhythm, Glennie’s drumming setting off snapping brass and scuttling strings… The subsequent four movements alternated between fast and slow, belligerence and melancholy, darkness and light… Horne has a definite gift and ear; Ignition is a substantial piece."

The Times

Click here for Boosey and Hawkes article on work

other works

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