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Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos slightly predate an overwhelming and long-standing trend for the “concerto” format to feature a single, heroic protagonist figure in the soloist. Bach’s soloists dart in and out of the texture contributing to the greater whole, they are not always natural matches for one another timbrally, but they are bund by the idea, which is of great importance than the players. Perhaps one of many reasons that Bach’s music sits so well alongside contemporary music is that the dynamic between solo and ensemble is finally being re-addressed again.
I’ve taken our alternative setup for Brandenburg 2 as a starting point (E-flat clarinet rather than trumpet), and withdrawn the violin soloist back in to the ensemble. I’ve written material in which the soloists are (almost) always interwoven in duos or interlocked as a trio - they cannot help but stand out from the ensemble, but cannot break free from each other. I’ve expanded the solo ‘voice’ downwards to include bass recorder, bass clarinet and cor anglais. There is a sense that the material must be heard in all registers, which leans to some timbral surprises.
Starting with, say, Bach’s Goldberg variations, the German tradition has given us so many fine examples of variation formats - the same object in different lights, or, as Stockhausen later preferred, ‘Different objects in the same light”. My object, having been conceived and projected by the strings in the first movement, is then examined in such detail that it can only be taken on board a layer at a time, a level of detail which is confrontational and at times problematic.
Triple Concerto is available from Contemporary British Woodwind Sheet Music (
List of works
Hut Ritual
Exhibition Suite
Triple Concerto
Fastener (Bra 3) (Plunge)
Prowl Routine
Sweet Suffolk Owl
Package 1a
What a Clarinet Sounds Like
Embankment Beach
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© 2015 Tom James, Tom Owen, Jenny Jackson & Chris Noble.
Triple Concerto
Players and performances
Part of the Brandenburg Project 18-20 April 2013.
Sam Giles, David Ross, Emily Ross, Tom Davies
Natalie Roper, Jess Jevon
Charlie Hardwick, Natalie Halliday
Sam Beagles
Gary O’Shea
Tom Owen
Martin Lightowler
Tom James