Concerto Grosso

for harpsichord, strings and percussion
Dan Locklair (b. 1949)

The result of a commission from the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition (based at Brigham Young University), CONCERTO GROSSO was completed in January of 1992 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The World Premiere of CONCERTO GROSSO occurred on 16 January 1997 in Finland (Lohjan Orkesteri – Jukka Tiennsu, harpsichordist and conductor), with the North Armerican Premiere taking place on 6 February 1997 in the United States in Kansas City, Missouri (Kansas City Chamber Orchestra – Bruce Sorrell, conductor; Marie Rubis Bauer, harpsichordist). As in the typical Baroque “concerto grosso”, CONCERTO GROSSO is cast in three movements. These three movements are similar in length (ca. 6′ 30″), with the resulting total duration of the piece being approximately 20 minutes.

CONCERTO GROSSO is scored for a 2-manual harpsichord, a modest-sized string orchestra and one percussion player (whose instruments include orchestral chimes, suspended cymbal, xylophone, vibraphone – played with bow and mallets – 4 tom-toms, triangle and glockenspiel). All three movements treat the harpsichord and chamber ensemble as equal partners and dialogues abound between the two throughout the piece.

Movement I’s primary melodic building blocks, centered around the note “F”, are from the transposed Phrygian and Locrian modes. The structure of the movement is governed by the alternation between the slow, majestic section that opens the piece and the fast, rhythmically driving section.

Movement II’s melodic material comes from a combination of the Phyrgian and transposed Mixolydian modes. Throughout the movement, rhythmically free harpsichord-dominated echo passages alternate with still, chordal sections in strict tempo.

Movement III’s melodic materials are primarily generated through a 5-note (Pentatonic) scale [A, C, D, E, G] and various transpositions of it. The fast and exuberant opening section soon gives way to a rhythmically flexible, jazzy section. With the movement’s rondo-inspired form, the opening section soon returns. Recalling Movement I approximately halfway through Movement III, the tempo and spirit of the opening music from Movement I return as an improvisatory-like first part to a harpsichord solo (cadenza). Soon, the tempo increases as the tom-toms dialogue with the harpsichord, leading to the fast and jazzy second part of the harpsichord solo (cadenza). Ultimately, the opening rhythmical idea on which the movement is based returns with the full ensemble to bring Movement III to an exuberant close.

Dan Locklair
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
January 1998