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Michael Nyman

Publisher: Chester Music

Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings (1995)
Work Notes
written for Elisabeth Chojnacka
Chester Music Ltd
Soloists and Orchestra
Year Composed
22 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
harpsichord (amplified)
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Programme Note
Michael Nyman Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings (1995)


This Concerto was composed during the winter of 1994/95 for Elisabeth Chojnacka, who gave the first performance with the Michael Nyman String Orchestra on 29th April 1995 in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. Its history is eccentric and cumulative. I had met Elisabeth in Paris about a year earlier while I was working on the soundtrack for Diane Kurys' film A la Folie (Six Days, Six Nights). I was attempting to persuade her to play my solo piece The Convertibility of Lute Strings (1992) but she expressed a passion only for tangos. As luck would have it, one of the cues of the Kurys score was what I fondly called a tango. Elisabeth showed interest in this and I subsequently turned it in to a harpsichord solo. Sadly, during the writing of the piece my friend the composer Tim Souster died tragically. Elisabeth's enthusiasm for Tango for Tim encouraged me to write the Concerto for her.

The Concerto is shaped as a very simple ABA form - the outer sections, derived from The Convertibility for Lute Strings, enfold an elaborated version of Tango for Tim. After the first performance, Elisabeth decreed that the true potential of the Concerto could only be fulfilled by the addition of a cadenza. This was duly composed in the summer of 1995 - a toccata derived from harmonies first heard in the immediate post-Tango for Tim, Convertibility material. (Elisabeth subsequently ordained that the cadenza could also have a life outside the Concerto as a concert piece if it had a few extensions added. Hence - inevitably, the title of the piece - Elisabeth Gets Her Way.

© Michael Nyman

Preview the score

  • Ensemble
    Philharmonia Orchestra
    John Harle, saxophones / Julian Lloyd Webber, cello
    Michael Nyman
Written for Elisabeth Chojnacka, it alternates increasingly elaborate solo figuration with string ritornelli, which recall Messiaen, Copland and Tippett by turn…the concerto seems a major work, as Nyman follows his twin tracks of fulfilling his own musical aspirations while keeping the punters happy.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian,01/04/1995
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