(1974) A Concerto for Nine Instruments
fl, ob, cl, bn, hn, vn, va, vc, db
Commissioned by the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress
11 October 1974, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
7 October 1975, Alice Tully Hall, New York
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Publisher: Novello & Co Ltd
...a concerto for 9 instruments that, conductorless, enact further her engaging, colourful and carefully worked-out ideas of instrumental comedy...what was striking and telling was an extensive and beautiful note of lyricism which took over at key points.
Max Loppert, Financial Times
...The over-all effect of the piece is that of a dramatic scenario in which the nine players are cleverly characterized in an on-going instrumental dialogue full of pointed wit, lyrical freshness and civilized give and take. It's an immediately appealing work that one would very much like to hear again.
Peter G. Davis, The New York Times
...Thea Musgrave's bracing Space Play, given without a conductor...the energy and precision were startling a lucid model of instrumental role play and surefooted musical drama.'
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 05/04/2004
This work is intended to be performed without conductor. The idea was to emphasize the soloistic qualities of a virtuosic group of players. An immediate challenge was how to write for such a large group of independent musical personalities and yet have a work which would be practical to rehearse and perform.
In practice the players share out the function of conductor as they in turn lead the rest of the group. The oboe dominates the opening Andante espressivo, the flute and the bassoon the ensuing Piu mosso and the clarinet the Calmo, molto rubato ed espressivo. There are also two cadenzas led by the horn; one after the oboe's andante, the other culminating out of the clarinet's calmo, where the clarinet and horn vie with each other to dominate the scene.
The spatial separation is important to the nature of the dialogue and so the four woodwinds are placed at the four corners of the platform and the strings form an inner circle around the horn. The horn is thus the nucleus of the group, and being easily visible to all the players, is required occasionally to give signals to ensure ensemble.
The title Space Play implies not only this acoustical separation, but also an element of comedy.
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