Euphonium Concert, Joseph Knight


Psalm 77

Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock
Movement 1 – Sonata

The whole concerto is influenced by the end of Psalm 77 Verses 19 & 20. The opening is to show the path of a person being lead through “the sea”. I have taken this to be an imaginary voyage on the sea of life. If you think about the sea, it is both clam and fierce. I also had in mind the poem “Footprints in the Sand” which also reflects these themes and is also based on Psalm 77. The sonata form of the first movement is an ideal vehicle to show the early life of a person. The first subject, around the tonal centre of G minor, shows the early struggle, moving into a slightly jaunty Latin inspired progression into the second subject where a person comes of age. As the movement continues into the development the themes move around those initial ideas, developing them and moving them through many different iterations. In this respect the soloist can be considered the person and the orchestra life and the voice of God.

Movement 2 – Elegy & Lullaby

This movement which is in three four time starts in a C minor tonal centre, but is largely modal in its approach, with call and response motifs until the Eb major based Lullaby comes around. This motif was originally written at the birth of my first child Esther and is the reason why the concerto is dedicated to her. The music then returns to the subject of the sea with the reiteration of the first theme of the elegy. This is followed by a return of a motif in fourths which represents challenges to come. It then moves into the Choral which is the “leading” motif, the idea of this is that this is the moment where God is carrying the person or “leading the flock”. There is then a reiteration of the first motif with the orchestra in the new key centre of Bb minor. The movement ends with the solo sound of the Euphonium plaintively holding a note before the rest of the orchestra comes in and brings the movement to an end.

Movement 3 – Ritornello

The word Ritornello literally means “little return” and during this piece the person reflects on their life and all the themes from the previous two movements return. The key centre starts with a loose F minor then raises itself to G minor by the end. The first to return after the new ritornello themes is the destiny theme followed by the Elegy theme returning as a jazz waltz each being proceeded by the ritornello theme. The idea of this movement is the person looking back at their life and seeing the episodes again. Sometimes the returns are the actual themes and sometimes they are the harmonies. The cadenza further works on the idea of return with many of the initial themes from the previous two movements and ends with the ritornello again. This brings the movement towards its conclusion. Both the second and third movements are loose arch formed movements although in this movement it draws to an end with the chorale from Movement Two, re orchestrated in the the return key of G minor to illustrate the last line of the Psalm “You led your people like a flock”, it is here where man realises where God “Carried Him”. The movement ends with peace and resolution.

Within the orchestration there are three different factors, firstly the Euphonium who plays the person, secondly the orchestra who are life and God and finally the timpani tuned to C & G throughout representing the constancy of time.

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