In composing this concerto I recognise two contrasting musical cultures within the European artistic tradition. The Brass Band represents what I call a ‘closed’ musical system portrayed by its standardised instrumentation heard to great effect in its stirring marches, sonorous hymn playing, contest pieces and arrangements of popular and show music, while the orchestra with its dazzling array of many instrumental colours, its flexible instrumentation and its potential for pushing musical boundaries, represents an ‘open’ musical system. I wanted also to exploit the virtuosic capacity of the brass band as a concerto soloist and to celebrate through this work the unity and solidarity amongst brass musicians.
Europa is a one movement work in five main sections which alternate slow atmospheric music with a fast and rhythmic style. The latter is heard in the many rapid passages which switch from band to orchestra and vice versa. Notable also is the relationship between the band and the orchestra particularly in the cadenzas for the brass band followed by the orchestral brass.
I was spurred into composing this work after reading about Europa, one of the large moons of the planet Jupiter first seen by Galileo in 1610 and named after a goddess of Greek mythology. Such thoughts were instrumental in generating my first musical ideas, for instance the name ‘Europa’ is represented by a six note melody heard throughout the work. However, my initial thoughts about Europa receded as I explored and developed the musical material. ‘Europa’ was commissioned by the Auckland Philharmonia. The work was first performed by the Dalewool Auckland Brass and the Auckland Philharmonia conducted by Miguel Harth-Bedoya on 13 June 2002 in the Auckland Town Hall.
2222;4331; timp; 2 perc. ( triangle, snare drum, mark tree, glockenspiel, tubular bells, marimba,cowbell, vibraphone, cymbals -splash, medium crash, china crash), bass drum, tambourine, 3 high tom toms (different pitches), finger cymbals; harp; strings; solo piano; solo percussion ( vibraphone, marimba, simtak, dulcimer, bass steel drums, wind chimes (2 or 3 sets), bell tree, mark tree, triangle, finger cymbals, drum station (4 octobans, 4 tom toms, 3 paddle drums, cymbals (trash, splash, medium crash, china crash, plus a cluster of smallest-possible splash cymbals), hi-hat)
I The Furies – The Furies were avenging spirits of retributive justice whose task was to punish crimes outside the reach of human justice. Their names were Alecto, Megæra and Tisiphone. This movement contains an adapted transcription of a fragment of improvised playing by one of my favourite Greek violinists, Stathis Koukoularis (It appears as a solo for violin about 2 minutes into the movement).
II To Yelasto Paithi (The Smiling Child) – This is the closest I’ve come to expressing – in a way not possible with the spoken or written word – the feelings inspired by my precious children, Emanuel and Zoe. In this movement is also caught the summer I spent working on the concerto at my parents’ house just outside the village of Nea Michaniona – a house perched on a cliff which looks down on the Aegean and up to Mount Olympus.
III Dance of the Mænads – Draped in the skins of fawns, crowned with wreaths of ivy and carrying the thyrsos – a staff wound round with ivy leaves and topped with a pine cone – the Mænads roamed the mountains and woods, seeking to assimilate the potency of the beasts that dwelled there and celebrating their god Dionysos with song, music and dance. The human spirit demands Dionysiac ecstasy; to those who accept it, the experience offers spiritual power. For those who repress the natural force within themselves, or refuse it to others, it is transformed into destruction, both of the innocent and the guilty. When possessed by Dionysos, the Mænads became savage and brutal. They plunged into a frenzied dance, obtaining an intoxicating high and a mystical ecstasy that gave them unknown powers, making them the match of the bravest hero.