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Reliquaries : Concerto for mallet percussion and strings

by Mark Grandison (2015)



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Reliquaries : concerto for mallet percussion and strings / Mark Grandison.

Library shelf no. 784.7268/GRA 1 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

A reliquary is a container for holy relics. In this case the 'holy relics' are various themes of J S Bach's concertos, adapted in this multi-movement work for mallets, to be accompanied by strings. Each movement also employs baroque movement forms as follows:

Movement 1 - Ritornello: a concerto form in which an opening theme constantly returns in alternation with contrasting episodes in different keys. The theme is derived from Bach's Violin Concerto in A minor, movement 1. This opening movement is primarily fast and lively featuring the xylophone in a pulsing, brittle and capricious manner. It leads directly into the next movement without break.

Movement 2 - Recitative: a declamatory vocal form used in opera to convey narrative and dialogue using the rhythm of ordinary speech, as though reciting a text. Material from the slow movement of Bach's Violin Concerto in A minor recurs to demarcate slow and extended free-form sections. Here is featured a 'stream-of-consciousness' vibraphone with a 'concertino' of four solo string instruments - two violins, viola and cello.

Movement 3 - Passacaglia: this form comprises a persistently repeated bass line pattern (known as a ground bass) over which material is introduced and varied. The ground bass I use in this slow, meditative central movement is an augmentation (stretched and slowed down version) of the opening descending bass line from movement 1 of Bach's Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor. After deeply resonant tremolos, the marimba quotes Bach's opening violin melody before a series of increasingly elaborate filigrees.

Movement 4 - Da Capo Aria: this form is an accompanied song in ternary (three-part) form. The vocalist sings a lyrical tune for the first section. A middle section provides contrast in texture and mood. Here the vibraphone 'sings', deriving its tune from Bach's Violin & Oboe Concerto in C minor, movement 3. In my middle section the mood darkens, the strings rest on a static chord, and the vibraphone hauntingly explores extended performing techniques such as bowing the keys. The third section of this form is a literal repeat of the opening (da capo meaning 'from the head') but with the soloist extemporising ornaments over the original material, though in this case the vibraphone's 'improvisations' are notated and the opening material is extended.

Movement 5 - Theme & Variations: a theme (based on movement 1 of Bach's Violin Concerto in E) is presented in a quirky guise by the xylophone. Variation 1 explores one of the chief motifs from this theme, still in the xylophone. Variation 2 explores another aspect of the theme, this time quite expansively and elaborately in marimba. Percussively strident clusters from the vibraphone develop a characteristic rhythmic feature of the theme in Variation 3. The final variation is a bravura showcase for the percussionist - all three instruments are played in quick succession, and yes, even simultaneously for the final extravagant bars.

Work Details

Year: 2015

Instrumentation: Xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, strings.

Duration: 34 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — solo part professional, strings parts at advanced secondary level

Contents note: I. Ritornello -- II. Recitative -- III. Passacaglia -- IV. Da Capo Aria -- V. Theme and Variations.

Written for: Steve Machamer

Includes viola as violin 3 parts, and double bass as cello parts.


Performances of this work

15 Nov 15: Kambala Performance Theatre, Sydney NSW. Featuring Kambala String Orchestra, Mark Grandison, Steve Machamer.

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