The Trumpet Concerto La Primavera is so-called because the initial impulse for the piece came from considering two aspects of the coming of Spring: the exuberance and vitality of burgeoning new growth, and the flowering (literally!) of the new or refreshed life as it expands. So the opening quick movement’s music is quicksilver and mercurial, with much celebratory material as well as overlapping patterns and a gradual increase in density – though there are also moments of chamber-music writing as well. In the central slow section which follows without a break, there is at first an almost static mood, inner life staying below the surface, until at length a complex theme rises, initially, from cellos and basses and eventually provides a full string texture. This is linked to the final quick section by a short “quasi cadenza” for the trumpet solo and bongos, and in the finale the music is rhythmic, once again accumulating through the juxtaposition of various overlapping strands. At the close, the trumpet solo has the last word (or the last note).
Two aspects of the instrumentation should be mentioned. One is that for the slow section, the soloist uses a Flugelhorn, that beautiful instrument beloved of brass bands and treated symphonically with great respect and sympathy by Vaughan Williams – it was also the instrument employed by Miles Davis. The other point concerns the percussion, which in a note in the score is requested to be placed, if possible, at the front of the platform next to, or near, the trumpet soloist, since the percussion part is at times in the nature of an obbligato.
The concerto was commissioned by the Orchestra of the Swan, and is dedicated to Simon Desbruslais, who initiated the composition, and to Robert Saxton and Tessa Cahill, whose encouragement provided the starting-point for this composition.
© John McCabe, 2012