Organist and Choirmaster James Walker had planned a concert for his fine choruses and chamber performers with two works, a short concerto for organ and chamber orchestra, and Charles Ives' The Celestial Country. Each work's orchestration excluded instruments in the other's orchestration. This handed him the dilemma of a finding specific work for that particular set of instruments. He asked me to complete the program with a work tailored to the specific group of instruments. As All Saints also has a fine two-manual harpsichord and as James' assistant at that time, Timothy Howard, was also a fine player, essentially we decided together on a double concerto, with James at the organ and Tim conducting from the harpsichord.
Based on a simple chord structure and progression, the theme is stated by solo harpsichord prior to the opening concerto grosso itself.
i. Improviso, cantilena e contrappunto
The first movement opens with improvisation-like gestures for the organ, followed by a long lined melodic section for strings and winds, and then a contrapuntal development of motives drawn from the "Thema." The excerpts which follow are not the entire performance, but only hint at the work's whole.
ii. Lento assai
An introspective middle movement restates the theme in the body of the Lento, after a meditative opening.
iii. Rondo cantabile
The harpsichord opens this movement in the submediant minor, in answer to the organ's lead in the first two movements, and then a rondo of themes based on the "Thema" and its chord progression ensures, growing more lyric and long-lined as the movement wends its way to a sub-dominant coda and final cadence on the tonic.
Thereafter, a long arching melody for flutes and violins sings out above the thema repeated by the organ.
For the implications of the thema touching so many tonal regions, now comes a moment resting in F major, its melodic contour drawn from the Thema's characteristic chords expressed in this diversion from B major.
The several restatements of the thema and its accompanying melodic derivations in long arches becomes decorated with fanfares from the winds and brass, bringing the overall rondo variation to its logical close.
62 pages, circa 25' 00" - an MP3 demo is here:
The score is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this score.
Concerto grosso in B major
Full score - A4 edition