Flute Concerto

Concerto for Flute and Wind Orchestra

Stephen McNeff, 2014

I have written a number of large-scale works for wind orchestra including
Wasteland Wind Music, Ghosts, The Winged Lion and a clarinet concerto. The
wind orchestra format is highly robust and capable of great power, but It
was when I wrote Image in Stone for mezzo soprano and a somewhat reduced
wind orchestra that I realised that the medium was also capable of a
surprising delicacy and introspection. My Clarinet Concerto has been a very
successful work and I enjoyed writing for a soloist. There are a lot of very
capable clarinettists (just look in front of you this evening) and so that
partly accounted for the take up. There are also a lot of flute players and
I had thought of writing a concerto for them, but it was only when I gained
an understanding of working in a more chamber-like way that I believed that
I knew how to approach this kind of work requiring a sensitive approach,
aware of the flute¹s great dynamic range and delicate colour. I also wanted
to write a flute work that could be played by non-professional soloists and
I am lucky that there are so many talented people who play this instrument.

The work is in a traditional three-movement form and opens softly with the
soloist accompanied by just timpani. The movement follows an almost regular
sonata form as used since the time of Mozart and Beethoven, but the real
thing to listen out for is how the solo flute interacts with the various
instrumental sections. As often in a concerto there is a dialogue – almost
a narrative – but whereas in some concertos this is sometimes
confrontational (a struggle between the soloist and orchestra), here I hope
it is more of a sharing and developing of ideas.

In the second, slower, movement there are two main themes. The first is
flowing as the flute spins a long tune over the ensemble; the other more of
a walking style. Again the soloist and orchestra exchange ideas until we
come back to the quiet opening music and a restful conclusion. In contrast
the final movement starts briskly and business-like. There is an insistent
offbeat drum pattern and spiky accompanying contrasts while the solo flute
bids for a more space to create a languorous opportunity and sustain a tune.

This movement has a very contrasting middle section, much slower and
expressive. The orchestra takes full advantage of the opportunity to be work
alongside the solo flute both in support and in its own right. In fact in
the closing moments the orchestra asserts itself as the dominating
expressive force, but allows the flute to have the last word in a cheerful
end to what we hope has been a very enjoyable adventure.

Stephen McNeff

The ‘Concerto for Flute and Wind Orchestra’ commission would not have been
possible without support from the following individuals and ensembles, with
many thanks:

Lambeth Wind Orchestra, North Cheshire Wind Orchestra, Dublin Concert Band

Significant Contributors:
John Holland, Tim Reynish, British Association of Symphonic Bands and Wind
Ensembles, Chris Bailey, Peter Terry

Miscellaneous Donations:
Simon O’Corra, Frederick Steyn, Sarah Birchall, Sarah James, Alison Wrenn,
Laura Sandford, Rob Cole, Sharon Moloney, Christopher Hussey, Liz Davies,
Alan Hilton, Jamie Treacher, John Heffernan, Denis Barnham and Stuart
Ryding, Vicky Watts, Kate Quarry, several anonymous donors

Names correct at time of going to press