Percussion Concerto

The Percussion Concerto exists in two different versions: a full, 30-minute version, and a 15-minute cut version. The 15-minute version cuts many of the larger sections of the 30-minute version while still retaining some of the basic structure of the piece. The description below is of the full, 30-minute version.

The concerto is in sonata form, though it challenges the ideas of the form continuously. It begins with a mysterious slow opening, where fragments of the main theme are passed around the orchestra. They eventually coalesces into a full orchestral pedal on the dominant, D#, and then lands on the tonic of G# minor for the beginning of the exposition. The percussion soloist presents the main theme of the piece, first fragmented, and then whole, in the xylophone and other instruments while the orchestra accompanies with I-V-I-V-I etc., which is the role normally given to the timpanist. The theme is a very driving and violent mixed meter melody that schizophrenically jumps between instruments. Eventually this arrives at the second theme, in B minor, where the main melody is slowed down and fixed into 4/4 and played in the brass with triplet accompaniment in the strings, where the soloist accompanies for a while and occasionally interrupts with quasi-drumset like fills. The exposition ends by moving to the dominant, D# minor again with a reprise of the opening of the first theme.

The development begins with the soloist playing quiet patterns on the snare drum while fragments of the first theme are tossed around the orchestra in a slightly comedic and ominous way. Gradually this builds up more chaotically in the woodwinds until the strings interject with the triplets from the second theme. The two themes alternate quickly with one another before collapsing downwards with a brief brass chorale. Then there is a short cadenza for the soloist on the dominant pedal, so it appears that the recapitulation is about to begin. However, the dominant pedal continues as the triplets from the second theme return and gradually accelerate into a huge orchestral climax. Here, one small part of the main melody that coincides with the first 4 notes of the Dies Irae hymn is isolated and gradually transforms into the full Dies Irae, which stops the music in a tutti 12-note cluster chord. This chord gradually fades out, and then in a moment of mysterious calm with tremolo strings, the recapitulation begins.

The first theme is presented completely transformed in glockenspiel, and then the soloist begins a long, unmetered cadenza where the first theme is presented as a mournful Marimba chorale. When the orchestra returns, a solo violin plays an elaborate cadenza echoed by the percussion soloist, and then the recapitulation of the second theme begins, again completely transformed, this time as a hymn for the strings in Ab major. This builds up to a passionate climax before fading away into mysterious solos for cello, piccolo, and English horn. There is a moment of uncertainty, and then the coda begins with a folksong accompaniment in the harp and piano. The soloist plays the opening melody, now transformed from its initial violence to a peaceful folk song. It gradually becomes more and more ethereal, and is finally presented one last time on crystal glasses by the soloist at the end, fading away peacefully.

Specific instrumentation details are on the second page of the score.

Score (pdf): Percussion Concerto Full Score

Cut Version Score (pdf): Percussion Concerto Cut Version Full Score

Recording (full version) (midi):

For additional information, questions, or parts requests, contact Aidan at aidangol@usc.edu.