17 Apr 2013

Holt – Ellsworth 2

by Jeff Counts

Instrumentation: piccolo, 2 flutes, 3 oboes, clarinet, 2 bass clarinets, bassoon, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, celesta, strings.

Duration: 15 minutes.

THE MUSIC – Ellsworth 2 was commissioned by Thierry Fischer and the Utah Symphony for the 2012-13 Masterworks season and composer Simon Holt wrote the following note for these world premiere performances. “I’ve been very strict with myself in this piece. The model for it is the painting by Ellsworth Kelly entitled ‘Painting for a white wall’. He’s a painter that I’ve long admired for his rigorousness, attention to detail and clarity of thinking. The material stems from music that I wrote in an earlier piece, ‘Troubled Light’ from 2008 (dedicated to tonight’s conductor, Thierry Fischer), which I wrote for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, where I was composer in association for 4 years. In ‘Troubled Light’, there’s a movement called ‘Ellsworth’; essentially the slow, central, meditative section to the whole piece and when some of the material from this movement re-appears in the final movement it’s become hugely loud and abrasive and it’s this music which I took as a starting point for ‘Ellsworth 2’. The painting by Kelly is in 5 distinct sections, all exactly the same size; both width and height. Each one is a separate, clearly defined colour. It’s precisely this kind of clarity that I have tried to aim for in my piece: 5 distinct sections of orchestral colour which each last exactly 3 minutes (or should do!). They’re all distant cousins of each other, material-wise, running without a break. Clearly, the piece should last exactly 15 minutes.” – SIMON HOLT (b. 1958)


Painting For a While Wall - Ellsworth Kelly