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Simon Holt

Publisher: Chester Music

Centauromachy - Double Concerto for Clarinet and Flugelhorn (2009)
Publisher
Chester Music Ltd
Category
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
2009
Duration
20 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Clarinet, Flugelhorn


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Programme Note
Simon Holt Centauromachy - Double Concerto for Clarinet and Flugelhorn (2009)
Centauromachy, a double concerto for clarinet in A and flugelhorn, was inspired by centaurs. Centaurs are a race of mythical creatures that appear to have the torso of a man joined at the waist to the body of a horse, where the horse’s head and neck would normally be. They are essentially fantastical beasts that simultaneously combine two distinct natures in one body. On the one hand this may account for their wisdom, making them intelligent teachers, whilst also making them impulsive and lustful, trapped in a kind of limbo between their two inherent characters: wild and yet capable of civilised behaviour.

Chiron, who was the teacher of Achilles, is held as the superior of all centaurs and he features in a dreaming state in the second movement. Centaurs are well known for being heavy drinkers capable of violent and delinquent behaviour. Chiron, however, was highly intelligent and kind. There was once a battle between the Centaurs and the Lapiths and this features in the fourth movement. The piece ends with an Elegeia for Chiron, who died sacrificing himself in order that man might obtain the use of fire.

The five movements are:
Two natures
Chiron’s dream
A centaur glimpsed through trees
Pitched battle
Elegeia

S.H.


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Performances
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Reviews
'...its ingeniously teamed solo instruments - a clarinet in A and a flugelhorn - weaving in claustrophobic arabesques. [...] Teasing and tensile, jagged and scuttling, the structure tottered more than usual for a work by Holt, although it clearly demonstrated his ear for timbres and fascination with man's divided nature.
Geoff Brown, The Times,8/11/2011
Holt's take on the myth is entirely personal, whether in the shining orchestral chords that provide the backdrop to the third movement, or the final elegy for Chiron, the centaur who sacrificed his own life for the sake of Prometheus. A strange, memorable piece.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian,8/11/2011
one of the most engrossing among Holt's recent works
Richard Whitehouse, classicalsource.com,8/11/2011
[The soloists] intertwined with long, sinuous phrases, which sang of both longing and impatience. These were sensuous creatures and this was an enthralling opening. 'Pitched battle' was a tense and thrilling climax, which displayed bestial aggression in steely, syncopated rhythms. The finale, 'Elegeia', is the most beautiful...a long, desolate dirge with the harp's dark tolling. Holt's work is a compact sequence of vivid scenes, fantastical in concept and demanding virtuosity from the soloists.
Rick Jones, Newstatesman,11/29/2010
There are moments when each instrument's timbre seems to linger on the threshold of the other; together they blend into an altogether different sound quality, and yet can also contrast brilliantly. The magical and otherworldly effect befits the mythical creature. [...] The soloists' interplay with the orchestra is characteristically intricate. Plane and Schartz realised the virtuosity effortlessly, allowing the work's core expressiveness and the feeling of an ultimately tortured superbeing to vividly emerge.
Rian Evans, The Guardian,11/17/2010
a marvellously imaginative conception - musically, emotionally and intellectually.[...] a wonderful, five-movement, musical fantasy. [...] the concerto also brilliantly exploits the technical resources of the two soloists, their streams of notes fizzing and cartwheeling over an orchestral background that is highly evocative without being blatantly pictorial. [...] a dazzlingly virtuosic showpiece.
Richard Morrison, The Times,11/16/2010
Centauromachy is dominated by the interplay of its solo instruments, sometimes trading extravagant roulades, sometimes interweaving delicate oscillations, always making intricate duo patterns that suggest a playful intellect [...] His orchestra is rich in individual sonic moments, usually for wind instruments, nearly always strikingly effective. But there are also dense, beautifully imagined chords
Stephen Walsh, The Arts Desk,11/15/2010
In the first movement an unaccompanied duet for the soloists the music is full of echoic patterns interwoven in ways which sometimes impress the listener as competitive, and sometimes fell like complementary elements fusing to make a whole. Perhaps the most immediately beautiful...is the third [with] its haunting opening. The harp is strikingly deployed behind both soloists, as it is at the beginning of the final movement....the music is poetic, a dignified, even ceremonial lament. The whole is...in a structure intelligent and lucid, but full of delightfully complicated, and complicating, detail.
Glyn Pursglove, musicweb-international.com,11/12/2010
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