Flute Concerto

Christopher Rouse

Flute Concerto

About this work

Although Christopher Rouse's family had been in America long before the Revolutionary War, Rouse still feels some instinctual ties to music of the British Isles, from which his family emigrated. His Flute Concerto attempts to synthesize the various strains of British music which evoke deep responses in him, like Irish folk song, Scottish pipe music and English coronation marches, with modern orchestration and perspective. This work is dedicated to Rouse's wife Ann.

The Flute Concerto is cast in a loose arch form. The first and fifth movements are both headed with the word "Anhran," which is the Gaelic word for "song." In each of these movements, the flute soars over glowing orchestral string music, recalling the Irish piping tradition in its melodies. The second and fourth movements act as the fast movements in the concerto's plan. The second, marked "Alla marcia," keeps the flute moving skittishly over the orchestral accompaniment, sometimes hanging on certain beats and sometimes rushing forward; the music never builds up enough momentum to be a proper march. This movement is full of jokes, containing a false ending about halfway through and a little comic percussion punctuation at the end. The fourth movement, too, has its humorous qualities, as the flute keeps trying to persuade the orchestra to join it in a jig; near the end of the movement, the orchestra briefly accedes to the invitation, but without the flute.

The third movement, called "Elegia," is the true musical and emotional core of the work. Like much of Rouse's music in this period, this movement was inspired by a death -- in this case the brutal abduction and murder of James Bulger, a two-year-old English child, by two ten-year-old boys. The slow, soaring melodies of this movement are alternately expressed by the winds, with the flute naturally dominating, and the strings. The movement comes to a climax when the strings and brass play a hymn at once both celebratory and tragic that recalls Elgar in its scoring and nobility.