The slow movements explore issues of life and death, while the two quick movements provide an energetic and bright contrast. The wide range of both solo instruments is explored.
The Double Concerto was commissioned by Andrew Uren (bass clarinet) and Katherine Hebley (cello) with funding from Creative New Zealand. It was designed to explore the unusal combination of solo instruments, extend the soloists and, at the same time, be performable by regional orchestras.
The opening movement has a lilting quality and is based on the Brahms' lullaby, which only appears (abridged) at the end, played on glockenspiel. The three themes that appear in this movement are related, in some way, to this lullaby. The movement is dedicated to my daughter Annabelle, who was born some months before the composition of this work. A short melody based on letters from her name (A-A-B-E-E) is played by the soloists in the coda.
By contrast, the second movement is fast and jagged, with a somewhat playful second theme shared between the soloists and woodwinds. The main theme has a toccata-like quality, and builds up to a strong conclusion.
Whereas birth was the theme behind the first movement, it is death that concerns the third, and in particular the sudden death of a close friend and musician, Angela Campbell, at the time of writing this concerto. It is an intimate piece for the two soloists only, and based on letters from Angela's name (A-G-E-A) which are heard at the beginning as a recurrent bass line. The cello melody at the start is a variation on a melody from the first movement, suggesting birth and death are inextricably linked.
The mood lightens in the finale which is a slightly bizarre waltz based on two contrasting themes. Near the end, the soloists have a cadenza which flows into the coda uninterrupted.