Penderecki’s Double Concerto

Notes by Ed Yadzinski

Originally written for violin and viola, this concerto was also intended to feature other pairs of string soloists. The same flexible approach was often employed by J.S. Bach and others in the Baroque Age. The composer writes: “I have spent decades searching for and discovering new sounds. At the same time, I have closely studied the forms, styles and harmonies of past eras. I have continued to adhere to both principles.” While the distinction may be subtle, the role of the orchestra is that of an extended canvas, set as a tonal background rather than a traditional accompaniment. The narratives for the soloists offer a rhapsodic dialog, very much like a gallery tour of tone-painted events. Beginning with lingering high harmonics in the cello, the violin replies with delicate pizzicatos. As the duo blends into a poignant chant, it transforms into an urgent plea, accented by the entrance of the orchestra. Serving to escort the development through a series of cryptic variations, the orchestra leads or follows the diverse facets offered by the soloists, with many changes in tempo and style.