This concerto was commissioned by the Bedfordshire Education Service (with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain) specially for Michael Hext, who won the inaugral BBC 'Young Musician of the Year' competition in 1978. It was first performed on 25 July 1979 at the Royal College of Music by Michael Hext, with the Bedfordshire County Youth Orchestra (conductor Michael Rose).
The work falls into three main sections, played without a break, but conforming to the traditional pattern of concerto structure. After a slow introduction, containing most of the motivic and rhythmic ideas used in the work, there follows the main fast section which is divided into three parts and concludes with a fierce climax (timpani and gong). The slow and intense middle section is linked to a cadenza for the soloist, at first unaccompanied but leading to accompanied references to earlier material. The final section is a scherzo which dramatically ends with a re-statement of the opening slow introduction. A brisk coda concludes the work. The interval of a fourth (and its augmented form) provides melodic and harmonic unity for the work; the tonal juxtaposition between E minor and B flat major throughout the concerto being an important structural device.
As might be expected, the solo part is virtuosic, encompassing the whole range of the instrument, but it also exploits the rather beautiful lyrical sound of which this instrument is capable. The concerto is scored for a standard sized orchestra, but with a large and colourful percussion section.
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