Allegro scorrevole - Adagio - Allegro scorrevole
Les Martinet noirs was commissioned by the Amsterdam Sinfonietta and the Eduard van Beinum Stichting, The Netherlands. Its subtitle 'Concerto for 2 Violins and Strings Orchestra' indicates what kind of work it is, very precisely - the two solo violins never play separately, but always form a duo partnership, sharing their music material and their virtuosity. It is also, since it was written for a brilliant Sinfonietta (to whom it is dedicated), quite virtuosic for the string orchestra. There are three movements played without a break, the third being at exactly the same quick tempo as the first. The Concerto lasts for about 20 minutes.
Martinets noirs is the French name for Swifts, those acrobatic Pucks of the air, and one of my annual delights during the summer is to sit in the garden and watch them wheeling about in the stratosphere, and then swooping down to around the trees and chimney pots before returning again to the heights. Their screaming call seems to suggest their joy in movement. Their energy and command of space is something that has always appealed to me - it is a sad moment when, as the summer begins to wane, one looks into the sky for the swifts and realises they are there no more. This piece was written in the glorious summer of 2003, when I was fortunate enough to see them many times, and witness their vertiginous athleticism, and their calm supremacy of the heights.