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Topic: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (John Carey)

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  1. #1

    Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (John Carey)

    Hello everyone!

    It's been quite some time since I posted here. I would like to share with you what I would consider my finest work to date, both in terms of my compositional ability and my work with GPO. I spent about 10 months on this one, from April 2011 to January 2012. The aspect of this piece that I am most proud of is that I believe it is the epitome of what I have been trying to accomplish stylistically and harmonically for the past six years or so.

    The majority of the thematic and harmonic material (particularly in the first and third movements) is derived from a single four note pitch class set (C, G, Ab, B) whose numerous permutations generate an immense amount of unique ideas throughout the work.

    The first movement begins with a hazy Lento passage in which the primary motif (based on the aforementioned pitch set) of the work is introduced by the viola. The music builds to a dramatic "Maestoso" passage. The rest of the introduction maintains a dreamy atmosphere, until the section marked "More Lively," where the piece is quickly whipped up into a frenzy and then scarcely loses momentum from that point forward. The rest of the movement is fast, fantastical and very loosely structured. Here there are definitely some strong influences from composers such as Ravel, Szymanowski, and Sorabji.

    After the movement relentlessly pushes forward, it hits its climax and plummets downward, ending with a very short reprise of some of the opening material. The second movement begins shortly thereafter. This movement, a theme and eleven variations, is the "core" of the work, so-to-speak. After introducing the theme, variation one begins, which is based on a two-note viola ostinato which has been described by my composition teacher as "obsessive." Variation two has a very sporadic, unpredictable quality. Variation three (marked "Pizzicato") exclusively uses pizzicato for both the soloist and the string section. Variation four gives the impression of a lop-sided waltz, alternating between 5/8 and 6/8 meters. Variation five ("Ritmico") is faster and, as implied my the marking, quite rhythmic. Variation six is based on fast orchestral arpeggios formed from polychords. Variation seven ("Sostenuto") slows the movement down immensely and is comprised of quiet, sustained sonorities. Variation eight (my personal favorite) is a dream-like arabesque that contains some of my richest harmonic work. Variation nine picks up speed again, leading to a very dense, chromatic variation ("In a confused manner") in which the theme is combined with the first movement's pitch set. Variation eleven ("Maestoso") is the climax of the movement, which is followed by a virtuosic cadenza and a mysterious coda.

    The third movement again derives the bulk of its content from the original pitch set, now juxtaposed with the rest of the themes from the first two movements. The majority of the movement is toccata-like (perhaps containing sections somewhat reminiscent of heavy metal music), barring one extended section that occurs before the coda, in which all of the past themes are increasingly broadened and combined simultaneously. After this, the music becomes frenzied once again, reprises the first movement, and then builds fiercely to its final climax.

    Anyway, on with the music!

    Recordings:

    I. Lento - Maestoso - More lively - Giocoso
    II. Theme and Variations
    III. Allegro molto

    Score

    Thank you for listening! Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated.

    P.S. To hear more of my music, please visit my website (http://www.johncareycomposer.com) and YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/johncareycomposer).
    Please visit my website - www.johncareycomposer.com

  2. #2

    Re: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (John Carey)

    Sorry for the double post; this is where I meant to post this thread originally. The mods may delete the other one if they like.
    Please visit my website - www.johncareycomposer.com

  3. #3

    Re: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (John Carey)

    Hi John,

    I've only had time to listen to the 1st movement tonight before I have to log off. I liked the dramatic and suspenseful atmosphere you have created. I thought the harp entries and the pizzicato strings were really effective.

    The whole movement with it's changing dynamics and articulations kept my interest to the end.

    Very interesting music. I liked it!
    yjoh

    Music... A Joy For Life.

  4. #4

    Thumbs up Re: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (John Carey)

    Hi John,

    You said that you've been working for 10 months on this 'oeuvre', which it really is. I forced myself to listen to the 3 movements and it was worth the while! It must have been a tremendous job to score all this and to have it performed the way it is now. (Although I sometimes have a little reserve for the instrument sounds, which are not always what they should be.) Nevertheless, you realised a masterpiece, a very high level of orchestration and variation. I particularly like the second movement with its variations flowing into one another. You mentioned the influence of Ravel and that is exactly what I noticed from time to time in your depicted colours.
    Normally, I'm not so fond of contemporary music, but you kept my attention for the full length of the concerto. I hope for you that it will be performed live one day. It is a challenge for the soloist and the orchestra.

    Good luck!

    Max

  5. #5

    Re: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (John Carey)

    Hi John, I agree with yjoh and Max. A very strong dramatic work, and I really enjoyed listening to it! Did you work with the violist on the solo part? Very fine writing for the instrument. I hope you get a live performance... it should sound great.
    A question: how did you set up the orchestra, especially the strings (did you use sectional strings in GPO or build your own ensemble?). Also what approach did you take to reverb... i.e. placement of the instruments in the "concert hall?" Did you use Convolution or Ambience in GPO.

    By the way, I will have a work (flute, viola, 'cello) premiered in Stonington CT on March 1, 2013, by the ensemble Eight Strings and a Whistle. Perhaps you'll have a chance to go.

    Best regards,

    John Newell
    John Newell
    www.johnnewellmusic.com
    GPO4, Garritan World Instruments, Digital Performer 7.24, Finale 2012, Miroslav Philharmonik

  6. #6

    Re: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (John Carey)

    Hi John.
    Your work is a true masterpiece.
    I'm not as good as the previous members at ins and outs of musical criticism, but if you got Max listen to an entire contemporay concerto, well, it deserves to have a listen to it!
    I really enjoyed it and hope you will have a live performance for it.
    Great music- five stars.

    Fabio
    Arrigo Beyle / Milanese / Lived, wrote, loved -- Stendhal
    Being Italian is a full-time job -- B. Severgnini

  7. #7

    Re: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (John Carey)

    JCarey! For now I just have to say I'm in awe of your accomplishment here. This is magnificent.--- And you already have great liner notes written for it!

    Thank you so much for posting this.

    Randy

  8. #8

    Re: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (John Carey)

    Thank you everyone for your enthusiastic response! I'm sorry it has taken me so long to respond, I've been incredibly busy with what seems to be a myriad of projects. I'd like to quickly address your posts:

    Quote Originally Posted by yjoh
    Hi John,

    I've only had time to listen to the 1st movement tonight before I have to log off. I liked the dramatic and suspenseful atmosphere you have created. I thought the harp entries and the pizzicato strings were really effective.

    The whole movement with it's changing dynamics and articulations kept my interest to the end.

    Very interesting music. I liked it!
    I'm very glad you enjoyed it! Did you ever happen to listen to the other movements as well?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max Hamburg
    You said that you've been working for 10 months on this 'oeuvre', which it really is. I forced myself to listen to the 3 movements and it was worth the while! It must have been a tremendous job to score all this and to have it performed the way it is now. (Although I sometimes have a little reserve for the instrument sounds, which are not always what they should be.) Nevertheless, you realised a masterpiece, a very high level of orchestration and variation. I particularly like the second movement with its variations flowing into one another. You mentioned the influence of Ravel and that is exactly what I noticed from time to time in your depicted colours.
    It was, indeed, a tremendous job, relative to anything I've composed previously. Certain sections in particular (such as the part of the 3rd movement where all the themes are elongated and superimposed over the harp/celeste ostinato) took about a month to work out just by themselves. I was extremely committed to my use of specific pitch sets, and deviated very little from this formula, which made certain ideas very difficult to realize; for instance, I would have a certain melodic or harmonic idea in my mind that I was determined to use, but I only had certain pitches/intervals that I could choose from at any given time. In many ways, composing this piece felt like putting together a jigsaw puzzle in which all of the pieces had matching edges, but only one combination would create the picture that I wanted. Thankfully, I have been told by my friend to whom this piece was written for that the highly patterned and interconnected nature of the piece does help the soloist quite a bit, because the constant use of similar pitch sets can aid in memorization and facilitate choices of fingering patterns.

    Normally, I'm not so fond of contemporary music, but you kept my attention for the full length of the concerto. I hope for you that it will be performed live one day. It is a challenge for the soloist and the orchestra.
    No arguments there! Though I was quite relieved to hear from my violist that most of it wasn't nearly as difficult as I had expected it would be. By the way, it means a lot to me that you enjoyed this work as much as you did if you are not generally a fan of contemporary music... though everyone seems to have a different interpretation of what exactly "contemporary" music is! I, for one, think that the overall style I've used in even my most experimental works is rather conservative, and am often quite shocked when people describe my music as "modern" or "dissonant." Though I will not argue that my music is tonal (though to my ears it is), when I think of dissonant music, I think of the likes of Carter, Boulez, Xenakis, et al. But I digress; the point I was making is that it is a huge compliment to me that, though you do not usually enjoy works in this sort of idiom, my concerto was not only tolerable for you, but you actually enjoyed it enough to listen to it in its entirety (lousy viola sample and all! ). This is what I have been striving for with my recent works -- to push tonal, harmonic, and rhythmic boundaries to the brink while still somehow having the overall effect remain accessible -- and your comment has reassured me that I have succeeded in doing so with this work. Thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by John Newell View Post
    [COLOR=#222222][FONT=Times]Did you work with the violist on the solo part? Very fine writing for the instrument.
    Thank you! Thankfully, because I wrote this work for one of my closest friends, I always had a violist on-hand to make sure I wasn't attempting anything outside the realm of possibility. Thankfully, not once did he say that anything I had written was unreasonable, though he did warn me that it was quite a warhorse and would require quite a bit of practice. However, this had to do with the length and the somewhat relentless continuity of the solo part more than anything. The way I was really able to get a good understanding of the capabilities of the instrument (particularly in the context of a concerto, in which the viola in particular can easily suffer in terms of audibility) was to closely study other viola concerti, such as the Bartok, Walton, Bowen, Penderecki, etc.

    I hope you get a live performance... it should sound great.
    Sadly, there was going to be a live performance just a few weeks ago (albeit with a piano reduction of the orchestral part), but my violist suffered severe illness only a few days beforehand and was unable to play. However, there is no doubt that at least one movement of this work will be performed live within the next year, and I guarantee to post a recording here when that happens!

    A question: how did you set up the orchestra, especially the strings (did you use sectional strings in GPO or build your own ensemble?). Also what approach did you take to reverb... i.e. placement of the instruments in the "concert hall?" Did you use Convolution or Ambience in GPO.
    As far as the strings are concerned, I don't use ensemble building for pieces with a large amount of instruments, mainly because my computer is fairly old and can only handle so many instruments loaded at once. I have never had an issue with the sectional strings, however, and find them to be quite satisfactory. With reverb, I never really use either Convolution or Ambience anymore... I find that, no matter how much tweaking I do, the instruments suddenly seem less realistic. Therefore, I simply use the basic reverb found in the "outputs" menu in Kontact. Perhaps this stems from my own lack of understanding regarding how to get the best sound out of the more complex reverbs, but so far I've found the most basic one to suit my renderings just fine.

    By the way, I will have a work (flute, viola, 'cello) premiered in Stonington CT on March 1, 2013, by the ensemble Eight Strings and a Whistle. Perhaps you'll have a chance to go.
    I would love to go! I can make no guarantees at this point, of course, as I have no idea what my schedule will be that far in advance, but that certainly would be a unique experience -- I have yet to see a performance by any of my fellow composers that I've met on the internet. Assuming nothing of dire importance comes up, I will do my best to attend. I'd also be happy to buy you a congratulatory drink and discuss composition-related matters afterwards if you'd like. In any case, I will mark my calendar!

    Quote Originally Posted by fabiolcati
    Hi John.
    Your work is a true masterpiece.
    I'm not as good as the previous members at ins and outs of musical criticism, but if you got Max listen to an entire contemporay concerto, well, it deserves to have a listen to it!
    I really enjoyed it and hope you will have a live performance for it.
    Great music- five stars.

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser
    JCarey! For now I just have to say I'm in awe of your accomplishment here. This is magnificent.--- And you already have great liner notes written for it!

    Thank you so much for posting this.

    Randy
    Thank you both so much for your kind remarks. I'm absolutely thrilled you enjoyed it!

    It is a great honor to me to receive such praise, especially from other composers, who are always likely to be listening with a critical ear. I look forward to hearing all of your works, and will try my best to comment, though I do expect to be swamped with work in coming weeks. Thanks again, everyone!


    By the way, I recently started a YouTube channel that contains a bunch of my pieces (with the score included), live performances I've given, and eventually works in genres outside the classical realm that I have not previously released to the public. I will gladly subscribe to anybody's channel who subscribes to mine.
    Please visit my website - www.johncareycomposer.com

  9. #9

    Re: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (John Carey)

    This is some really solid writing. You should be proud of what you've accomplished here and I gather you are from your replies.

    The score looks good as well. There are a few collisions of text and notes and (assuming you're using Finale) a few spots where layer 1 and layer 2 notes need to be pulled apart a bit. Otherwise nice engraving too.

    I hope this gets a live performance WITH orchestra.
    Steve Winkler GPO4 JAAB3 Finale 2012 Reaper Windows 7 Pro 64-bit VSL SE+

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