Norma Beecroft, Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 2

NORMA BEECROFT: Born in Oshawa, Ontario, April 11, 1934; now living in Orono, Ontario (about 75 km east of Toronto)

Aleatoric music and pointillism were just two of the many new ideas swirling about in the 1960s and ‘70s. Random, indeterminate, chance (aleatoric) fields of notes and the notion of many isolated “dots” or pinpricks of sound (pointillism) inform Beecroft’s second” improvisation,” written for the NAC Orchestra’s second season in 1970-1971.

Norma Beecroft has written three works with the title Improvvisazioni Concertanti. The first was in 1961 for flute and orchestra, the second in 1971 for the NAC Orchestra, and the third in 1973 for flute, timpani and orchestra. No. 2 was composed during the NAC Orchestra’s second season (1970-1971) and first performed on April 21, 1971 conducted by Mario Bernardi.

The composer conceived the work as a kind of contemporary concerto grosso, with the first-chair players used in solo ensembles (string quartet, woodwind quintet, etc.). The solo instruments and groups play in pointillistic style, the full orchestra in a more even-textured and almost tonal style. “Thus, by contrast of styles, the smaller ensembles are given their own aura, are ‘framed,’ as it were, in the visual sense.” Solo groups and full orchestra each have their own material, which is not developed by the other. Improvisatory techniques are used, especially in the central section.

Beecroft has stated also that “the first time I used the aleatoric (chance music) technique was in Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 2. I wanted to have the work take a certain kind of shape – almost a mirror shape – so that in the center of the work you have this accumulation of orchestral sound. I decided to try to experiment with improvisation but in a very, very controlled way so that certain kinds of sounds would last for ten seconds, certain kinds for fifteen seconds, and some for thirty seconds. Overall there would be a dynamic structure.”
Robert Markow

© 2010, Robert Markow

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