Concerto for Violin, Violoncello, 10 Winds, and Percussion (1960)
On the eve of September 6, 1961, an audience of American dignitaries and some 850 scholars arrived at Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They had some to attend a concert of modern music given by the Fromm Foundation in conjunction with the eighth congress o the International Musicological Society. Three works new to New York were to be presented.
In various parts of the Green Room a number of woodwind players (a dozen or so of the twp chamber groups yet to perform) were changing from street clothes to l’habit soir. Some moved swiftly, some deliberately, some stood, some sat, each in a different phase of dress. Among the few who were by now partially clad, oboes, flutes, bassoons and clarinets were being put together, carefully adjusted and fitted. Here there mouthpieces were being moistened. The concert had already begun.
As the sounds of the first works drifted into the room the players, most still in carried and incomplete stages of dress, streamed toward the door leading to the stage. There they stood in their partially clad blacks and whites, tightly bunched, in instruments akimbo, mesmerized as in a fairy tale awaiting a prince’s kiss. Sounds were being emitted by two large speakers on stage, the singers momentarily stilled: sounds that clustered in dazzling scales, wind-like in short and long bursts and in rhythmically intricate patterns. Although among the outstanding free-lance wind players in the city, these instrumentalists perceived themselves in that stopped moment threatened, obsolete.
Yet to come was a work in which (they had read in the program notes) “instruments were being isolated in space and timbre, in which each of two antiphonal groups had their own repertory of melodic and harmonic intervals…associated with certain metronomic speeds…in confrontations of diversified action patterns and a presentation of their mutual interaction conflicts and resolutions with froth and decay over various stretches of time.”
It was in such an ambience that the closing work seemed “another musical world.” The work in question was my own Concerto for Violin, Cello, Ten Winds and Percussion. How well it or its two companions, Babbitt’s Vision and Prayer and Carter’s Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano, will fare in the presence now of Minimalism and The New Romantic Movement etc., etc. will ultimately depend on the continued interest of performers (alive and kicking still), and audiences, in the musical essences of these works.