Sinfonia Concertante ~ Conductors Score
Sinfonia Concertante ~ Conductors Score  Ref: JM59SC
for Recorder Soloist and String Orchestra

The Sinfonia Concertante of David Johnstone was written in 2004 and dedicated to the Spanish-based recorder virtuoso Ernesto Schmied. The idea from the outset was to write a large-scale work for recorder soloist and string orchestra where the recorder soloist is able to compete as equals with the orchestra in a work which displays symphonic transformations and development, hence its title. With good amplification of the soloist highly desirable, the possibility arises to conceive the performance with up to symphony orchestra forces (and thus giving many passages an extraordinary power and exhilaration), although it can equally work well with small string orchestral size and in this case with, or without amplification of the solo recorders - it is important to bear in mind that our soloist 'switches' between various instruments during the course of the work.

The piece is somewhat spiritual but not obviously religious, at least in any traditional sense. It is more a work of 'personal growth', but neither is it specifically auto-biographical. However there has been considerable psychological and emotional preparation to the role of the recorder soloist, who is our principal character in this music drama, and finally our hero as well; the following guides helped the composer, but the public will simply hear a well-crafted and intense piece of music.

The first movement starts as an 'Oration' - long romantic film ambience, with a solo part at times cantabile and at times more declamatory. However the orchestral accompaniment increasingly inserts tension which tends to de-rail the romanticism of the soloist, whose musical offerings become increasingly desperate and despondent, unable to cope with the 'onslaughts' of the orchestra. After moments of pure 'desolation' a kind of divine or other spiritual help at the very end of the movement starts to sow subtle musical seeds to which our principal character is able to cling on to, and which eventually is to launch the second, and fast, movement, 'Liberation'. This quite aggressive 'allegro' is conceived in a way in which the soloist is left alone on the 'outside' at the beginning (the 'mock' fugue of the orchestra), but little by little enters the arena, becoming an equal to the orchestra and later dominating much of the proceedings. There are moments of great propulsion, a fair share of tension and relaxation, a subtle cadenza by the soloist and string principals, and a glorious coda to bring the work to an exciting and brilliant finish.

The aim has been to produce a weighty addition to the repertoire of the recorder soloist, both in the difficulty of the writing and the complex symphonic structure. However, at the same time the composer has also envisaged the possibility of a virtuoso chamber music version using only string quartet and recorder soloist. In both cases the music exceeds by a little some twenty minutes of performance time.