Nicholas Sackman - Concerto in Black

Concerto in Black

This 22-minute piece is a virtuoso tour-de-force for sixteen players, falling into three sections – fast-slow-fast – but played without a break. Apart from the slow section, the pulse of the piece is extremely quick (the main reason why the score runs for 172 pages) and every instrument takes a full and equal part in the delivery of the wide-ranging music argument (which happily encompasses passages with a middle-eastern flavour and even, briefly, a tango). The musical content of the opening bars – a kind of eruptive chorus – informs much of the piece, reappearing at higher and higher pitches throughout the first section whilst a contrasting chorus, appearing immediately after the first, joyously returns at the very end of the piece in order to bring the work full-circle. The title has absolutely no connection, even allusional, with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue; rather it is a simple reference to the printed reality of the music on the page and also my mental and emotional state at the time of the composition. The latter point sits oddly (as it often does with composers) against the unrestrained exuberance of the piece.

Nicholas Sackman

First performed by BCMG conducted by Diego Masson on 1 November 2007 at CBSO Centre, Birmingham.