Duo Concertant


Duration: 14 minutes

Cello and Piano

Commissioned by Bernard Gregor-Smith and Yolande Wrigley.
First Performance Bernard Gregor-Smith/Yolande Wrigley, 8 May 1997, University of Manchester (Walter Carroll Lunchtime Concert).

Listen to extracts of Duo Concertante by Alan Charlton (bars 159-219; ending) performed by Bernard Gregor-Smith and Yolande Wrigley:

Programme Note

Commissioned by Bernard Gregor-Smith and Yolande Wrigley for the Walter Carroll Lunchtime Concert Series at the University of Manchester and first performed by them in May 1997, Duo Concertant was composed in January and February 1997.

Having studied the different playing styles of the two performers, and with they themselves stressing that they thought of themselves as a duo rather than as soloist and accompanist, I decided to cast the two instrumental parts as two independent and distinctive musical ‘characters’. Thus the character of the cello part, with its constant reiteration of a handful of short musical cells, is obsessive, passionate and intense, whereas the piano has a more detached role, initially proceeding in blocks of fairly static harmonically-orientated material.

Cooly distant from each other at the start, the two instruments go about establishing their own very different worlds. Gradually, they interact more with each other, the piano taking on several of the cello’s emotional and rhythmic traits. This increased interaction soon starts developing at an alarming rate and in a dramatic escalation of activity, a crisis point is reached, signalling the start of a prolonged disintegration of the relationship between the two instruments. In a slow epilogue, a partial reconciliation is forged, though tension still remains.

Duo Concertant makes extensive use of a technique of generating harmonic material from vertically symmetrical groups of pitches, particularly in the piano part. The ‘all-interval tetrachord’, a four-note chord which contains all the intervals from a semitone to an augmented fourth (for example C, D flat, E, F sharp), forms the basis of the piano’s material throughout, while many of the motives in the cello part are derived from the whole-tone scale.