Violin Concerto

Philip Grange (Composer)

Research output: Non-textual formComposition


The world premiere of this BBC Radio 3 commission was given by the BBC Philharmonic, with soloist Carolin Widmann in Manchester; the CD comprises the November 2019 broadcast. It is published by Peters Edition.

The principal research aim was to explore a range of relationships between soloist and orchestra by addressing issues of crowd dynamics (outlined in Canetti’s Crowds and Power (1960)) via musical analogies for mass animal-behaviour patterns (see e.g. King and Sumpter, ‘Murmurations’, (2012)). Solo–ensemble relationships in the violin concerto were also studied, including in Vivaldi, Op. 3/10, Elliott Carter’s Violin Concerto and Birtwistle’s Concerto for Violin Solo and Orchestra.

The methodology developed local gestures into features of large-scale significance within a rotational structure. Initially, the soloist emerges from within the ensemble, then develops a competitive relationship with the other violins. In the two central slow sections s/he maintains prominence, incorporating epanorthotic soliloquys. The fast sections use various orchestral gestures, shapes and patterns derived from mass animal behaviour, resulting in various relationships with the soloist, who, for example, battles the orchestral mass in the final section, inspired by bat clouds (bb. 443–91), but is non-interactive in bb. 301–56, inspired by a plague of locusts. The swarm section (bb. 73–215) and murmuration passages (bb. 216–33 and 361–402) explore a developmental approach to the soloist/ensemble relationship, with the soloist increasingly imitating the murmuration material to end the concerto with its own version.

The research provides insights into new ways of developing dynamic relationships between soloist and orchestra. While there are links to Xenakis in the micro-behaviour of individual elements resulting in large sound-mass textures, using the mathematics of animal group behaviour to map varying levels of density and a precise relationship between micro and macro musical motions creates a new approach to the concerto.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherEdition Peters Group
Sizev + 81pp
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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