Bonsai Concerto No. 3

Guitar and Small Orchestra (2015)
Guitar, Wind Instrument in C, Wind Instrument in B-Flat, Keyboard, Horn in F, Bassoon, Percussion (Tom-Tom, Tambourine, Vibraphone with Bass Bow, Maracas, Suspended Cymbal, Marimba), Strings

I. Villanelle: Allegro moderato poco maestoso
II. Parting Friends: Andante non troppo lento
III. “La folía” retorcida: Allegretto

Dedicated to Roberto Limon and premiered by him in two concerts: in Tijuana on November 5, 2015 and in Ensenada on November 7, 2015. (In these concerts the Keyboard part was assigned to Accordion with particularly charming results.)

Score Sample

Duration: c. 14 minutes

Regarding the “Heterophonic Lines” of the Bonsai Concerto No. 3: Unspecified Winds and Keyboard parts.

The Bonsai Concerto No. 3, for guitar and small orchestra, contains four instrumental parts which are purposely ambiguous: the “wind” parts are for three performers, but can be played by flute and or oboe or MIDI wind controller for the parts in C; with clarinet, soprano saxophone or MIDI wind controller for the B‐flat part. The “keyboard” part also is for just one performer, can be played by synthesizer, acoustic or electric piano, or harpsichord; the part is written on only one staff. The choice of instrument perhaps should depend on the size of the string orchestra, as well as the availability of performers. (See Instrumentation Details below for overview).

The “Unspecified” Wind and Keyboard parts are to be ornamented as desired throughout. That is, while their lines often duplicate the lines of other instruments, it is expected that the performer will add appropriate ornamentation, which should consist at least of passing and neighbor tones, appoggiaturas, trills, tremolos, etc. The rhythms can also be modified with discretion: longer notes can be filled in with smaller values, octaves and thirds added, doubled or substituted, etc. Individual phrases can be transposed up or down an octave at will to better fit the instrument used.

This freedom to embellish is granted only to these four instruments as the other parts of the orchestra are either performed by multiple players (the strings) or whose colors are so special that they need to be used with discretion (horn, bassoon, percussion). Their lines are rarely in the forefront of the musical texture; their primary function in the piece can be compared to the basso continuo of the Baroque: serving as an underpinning of the basic harmonies of a piece, but also as a way to bring different shadings to the primary colors of the main ensemble.

So why go to all this trouble, you may ask?

I am looking for ways to create a freshness and sense of spontaneity in the performance of classical music: something which can be found in much popular music today as well as in the interpretation of medieval and early Renaissance music: something which often gets lost when musicians focus excessively on a literal interpretation of a score by a contemporary composer. Of course this doesn’t signify complete freedom for all the performers, but it does try to leave a little bit of creative space so that the score can be tailored to each particular performance.

Instrumentation Details

2 Unspecified Wind Instruments in C (flute, oboe or MIDI wind controller, etc., in any combination)
1 Unspecified Wind Instrument in B‐flat (clarinet, soprano saxophone or MIDI wind controller, etc.)
1 Keyboard Instrument (synthesizer, piano or harpsichord)
1 Horn in F
1 Bassoon
1 Percussionist (1 Tom‐tom, Tambourine, Vibraphone (at times played with bass bow), 2 Maracas, 1 Suspended Cymbal, Marimba
Guitar solo
String orchestra ‐ 6,5,4,4,2 (recommended)