Rondo begins with a fast, energetic idea in the woodwind instruments with a distinctive rhythmic profile that pervades the opening section. This music returns three times during the course of the piece, sometimes extended and developed, sometimes condensed. There are three episodes: the first, featuring an extensive viola solo is closely related to the third. The second episode begins calmly with a fugal passage on muted brass instruments, but builds to a loud climax.
Huw Watkins has written a vigorous, pungent score. As its title suggests, this is abstract music, inhabiting a very old form, but Watkins’s writing is evocative and will conjure up images in every listener’s mind.
With brilliant economy of means and clarity of notation, Watkins gets a Stravinskyan rhythmic leverage into his 17-minute essay, with a rigour that is at one with its beauty.
The Sunday Times
A clear identifying landmark between the episodes is a jerkily dancing chorale-style melody, as the well-imagined score progresses through changes in momentum and texture. There is humour and character here, with a Spanish-sounding final episode before a genuine sense of conclusion.
The Birmingham Post
First performed by BCMG conducted by Susanna Malkki on 4 March 2005 at CBSO Centre, Birmingham.