A Far Cry commissioned "concerto GROSSO" for 18 strings from composer Christopher Hossfeld, (who was a college friend of violist & crier, Sarah Darling) and gave the world premiere at Jordan Hall in Boston on the night before Halloween in 2009.
Description of the piece by the composer himself:
"concerto GROSSO can be seen in two ways: it is either a chamber piece for 18 strings, or a concerto for an 18-string orchestra where all players are soloists. In either case, it is 18 minutes long. Attempting to blur the line between chamber and orchestral music at this scale creates a grossness in the music: multiple overlapping layers, thick dissonant chords, a sense of rhythmic disorder and chaos, not to mention the physical challenge of holding the piece together. To balance this complexity the overall structure is simple: 3 movements with familiar forms: solo vs. tutti, fugue, and passacaglia/theme & variations. In one sense the forms are sterile and mathematical, while the music remains terribly personal as well.
I. All but Death—
The titles of the movements are literary (to a degree). Their sources will remain hidden for now (though a simple google search will reveal much), but their preoccupation is clear: death. These notes will not dwell on the personal motivations and emotions behind them: too detailed a revelation would hinder, not help, the appreciation of the music. concerto GROSSO is dedicated to the memory of a beloved aunt. The audience is invited to contemplate the movements as they are tonight, and perform further investigation if they wish.
The first movement is built on alterations between large tutti and small solo groups. The line between solo and tutti is intentionally vague. The urgent 16th notes of the theme are framed by full orchestral chords at the beginning, middle and end of the movement. As the final sounds fade, a familiar strain may be heard floating from the violas.
An 18-voice triple fugue is quite disgusting to behold. Is it as disgusting as the undead, or the obsession with death?
III. l’enterrement d’une feuille morte
This passacaglia is part Chaconne in d minor, part Dido and Aeneas, and a lot of historical fantasy. The mood is both grave and playful. There are twelve sections in the piece (11 bass-line repetitions plus coda), each section is 12 bars long, and the whole movement is approximately 12 minutes."
Hossfeld earned his BA in Composition from Harvard University & MM in Choral conducting from Yale University. He resides in Montreal, Canada. For more information, check out his website, christopherhossfeld.com