In Winter Light (2006)
Concerto for Flute / Alto Flute and Orchestra

Programme Note: John Buckley

In Winter Light (Concerto for flute/alto flute and orchestra) was commissioned by RTÉ. It is a version of In Winter Light, originally composed for alto flute (William Dowdall) and guitar (John Feeley). This original version has been released on CD on the Celestial Harmonies label.

The concerto is scored for flute doubling alto flute, percussion, harp and string orchestra. The title is taken from an image in the poem ‘Omeros’ by Derek Walcott but the winter light of the title is entirely Irish. The fact that the piece was written mainly during the winter months, gives an extra resonance to the title. The piece is in two contrasting movements Adagio and Con moto separated by an elaborate cadenza for solo flute. The two movements attempt to capture different aspects of winter light – the subtle muted tones of November twilight and the sparkling brilliance and luminosity lent to a cloudless winter’s day by the low sun.

The first movement Adagio features alto flute and is in the nature of a dialogue between soloist and orchestra, with a constant ebb and flow of the musical material. The cadenza for solo flute draws on material from both movements in a virtuosic elaboration and leads without a break into the second movement.

This movement is faster, more regularly paced and rhythmically impelled. The main idea juxtaposes different rhythmic patterns between the flute and orchestra; the flute in six against the orchestra in four and alternating block chords with a walking-bass type figuration. A slower middle section using alto flute gives time for a more leisurely reflection before a varied reprise of the opening material brings the piece to a brisk conclusion.

The concerto is dedicated to William Dowdall, who gave the first performance in the National Concert Hall in November 2006, with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Christian Gansch.