Concert Notes

György Kurtág’s …concertante…

Notes by TŌN trombonist Stephen Whimple

The Composer 
György Kurtág is known for his highly expressive and intense musical style, and for his innovative use of musical form and structure. His music is characterized by its economy of means, with each note and gesture carefully crafted for maximum impact. His works range from solo pieces to large-scale orchestral works, and are often marked by a sense of intimacy and introspection. Kurtág’s music has received numerous awards and honors, yet he is known for his modesty and self-effacing demeanor, and has often spoken of his music as a form of personal expression rather than a means of public acclaim. The Orchestra Now is grateful to have the opportunity to present this work as our own personal encore to Bard College’s annual Kurtág festival, “Signs, Games, and Messages.” 

A Different Kind of Concerto 
Kurtág’s …concertante… is a different kind of concerto on a multitude of levels. While you may not walk away whistling any of the melodies played by the soloists, you will see the technical and expressive natures of these instruments pushed to their limits. This piece explores soundscapes created by the soloists and a rather large orchestra, featuring around twenty different percussion instruments in the back row! This concerto is performed as a singular uninterrupted work with several sections, rather than individual movements. 

The Music 
The first section, …fantasia…, opens with the soloists meditating on a concert G before the orchestra introduces the colors it will be providing for the work. While the soloists elaborate on their singular note, bring your ear to what instruments stand out to you. The use of orchestration from here on out should be very interesting. This section grows dynamically and in intensity to the Vivo, agitato, in which Kurtág showcases his command over rhythmic complexity. The middle movement is a lyrical interlude featuring more lush sounds. The coda begins with more eccentric brass writing, leading into the …epilogo…, a conclusion that fits the piece from the tone set in the beginning. 

It’s All Amazing 
We do not always have the opportunity to play works in this style, but when we do, it is some of my favorite music that we get to make on stage. To me, one of the many beauties of music is its incredible range in complexity. From pop songs we listen to on the radio, to this, it’s all amazing, we just get to figure out how and why.