Concerto for Trumpet, Alto Saxophone and Strings
Oberon and Titania’s quarrel in Act II of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and its consequences for certain mortals, makes for a comedy that is not without darkness and malice. This concerto is a picture, not so much of the enchanted fairy kingdom, as of the intense, volatile relationship of these warring lovers.
The first movement starts amicably enough, as if Titania has called Oberon to dance: the soloists playfully pick up each other’s motifs, Oberon’s trumpet fanfares answered by more curvaceous saxophone phrases from Titania. Only gradually does discord creep in, building to a passionate outburst after which the movement subsides with a note of regret.
The second movement is a nocturne. Oberon has bewitched Titania, who swoons over Bottom, ‘translated’ into an ass (solo double bass). At first, Oberon looks on, amused at the spectacle; but eventually he repents his trick (“Her dotage now I do begin to pity”), takes off the spell, and, as the sun rises, is reunited with Titania.
On waking, they call each other to dance: a sequence of revels gets more lively, until ‘the iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve’, when, the music suggests, the cycle of play, quarrel and reconciliation will start again.
The idea for this concerto came to me while writing music for Richard Jones’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the RSC, and it develops some of the themes from that score.
Commissioned by the Hampstead and Highgate Festival for Deborah and Beverley Calland
First performance: 11th May 2002, Deborah Calland (trumpet), Beverley Calland (saxophone), the Britten Sinfonia, Nicholas Cleobury (conductor), St Jude on the Hill, London.
Solo Trumpet, Solo Alto Saxophone, Strings (min. 18.104.22.168.2)