Concerto for Trumpet, Percussion, Turntables & Orchestra (2014)

solo trumpet, solo percussion, turntables, and orchestra // 20 mins
Orchestration: 2(2pic).2.2(bcl).2(cbsn)/ Tp/Solo Perc/Turntables/str
[Commissioned by Orchestre de Pau Pays de Béarn]


Programme Note

This Triple Concerto is a dialogue amongst the three soloists and with the orchestra. Different protagonists come to the fore-front, sometimes dominating the other instruments, even controlling them, other times working together in more equal conversation.

The Turntables, which do not really have their own sounds; steal phrases from the other soloists and the orchestra; imitating their sources and then manipulating them into new musical material.

A continuing theme in the concerto is our ever increasing interaction with machines; whether they be vehicles we ride in, automatic check-out machines, or the screens we swipe, touch and become hypnotised by; sometimes becoming quite machine-like ourselves.

As the ‘machines’ of the concerto, The Turntables help explore this subject, and at times manage to take control of the whole orchestra….

The first movement opens with a syncopated, mechanical yet playful, counterpoint of two motifs suggesting a busy city scene. One after the other, solo percussion (on cowbell), then solo trumpet enter with motifs and themes which are both copied and corrupted by the Turntables. After further development comes the central section in which the percussion plays out a quasi-melodic phrases with fast drum-rolls across different drums & cymbals, these rolls are eventually stolen by the Turntables, who uses them to converse with the percussion. Following a wild solo from the trumpet, the turntables increasingly slows down the percussion rolls until the individual beats can be heard; this ritardando from the turntables forces the whole orchestra to also decelerate – the turntables have taken control of the tempo. The slow metronome-like click of the turntables then provides a beat for a tentative recapitulation of the opening material and theme.

The second movement provides a strong contrast to the other movements; the orchestra create a hazy, multi-layered texture, out of which rises gentle violin solos, then a delicate percussion solo on bowed crotales, and finally a rising melody which is echoed between the solo trumpet and the two orchestral trumpets. The turntables have a less prominent role in the second movement, hiding in the background, providing a grainy texture of vinyl crackle (one of the few sounds the turntables can make without sampling anything). The second movement at first suggests an escape from a machine infected world, but after the trumpet led climax we enter a middle section, which falls back into a more robotic scherzando…

The third movement, opens with swirling violins unpinned by confident low strings: a more traditional orchestral sound-world, but with a few modern twists in the percussion and the cadences. A proud melody is stated by the violins, then opened up further by the solo trumpet, and then stolen by the turntables, who apply classic ‘turntablism’ cutting technics to fragment the theme into a much more contemporary, urban setting. Then the turntables echo orchestral stabs with ‘reverses’, leading into a fiery ’Terrificante’ section. Following several transitional episodes, the music arrives at a climactic virtuosic percussion solo, which is sampled by the turntables who then replay it at double tempo creating a frenetic texture over which a break-neck speed trumpet (plus clarinets) celebratory solo, gradually emerges.

The movement ends with the return of the opening theme, but this time with the orchestral accompaniment  stolen and corrupted by the turntables; the melody played by the orchestra. Roles are exchanged again…. Who is in control?

© Gabriel Prokofiev, 2014

The first performance was given on 5th February 2014 by Marie Bédat (trumpet), Stéphane Garin (I), Chantal Aguer (II) & Anne Marie (III) (solo percussion), Mr. Switch (Turntables), and l’Orchestre de Pau Pays de Béarn conducted by Fayçal Karoui, at the Palais Beaumont Centre de Congrès, Pau, France.

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