Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra, No. 2, op. 25
LISTEN (the beginning of the 3. movement)
rhythm - that is when deep inside the dormant,
archaic impulse of the soul frees itself and flows, unrestricted,
to the surface like an effervescing fountain.
It is at this fountain that the thirst for the pulsation
of harmony can be quenched..."
N. J. Zivkovic
Dr. Ira Prodanov
When one mentions a
concert for a solo instrument and orchestra, one usually thinks of a three-movement form
with two mutually opposed sound sources that become "reconciled" in the closing
bars of the work. A solo cadenza is almost assumed. However, the Concerto No.2 for
marimba and orchestra1 by Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic2
we refer to is, in many ways, an exception compared to standard compositions of this kind.
First of all, the instrument counterposed to the orchestra is the marimba3,
an old African percussive source of sound, hardly imaginable in the setting of a symphony
ensemble. Another exception is the fact that the author again decided upon this musical
form, which we consider classical, and with good reason.
to span the broadest possible spectre of elements not only in relation to the construction
of the work, but in relation to the construction of the instruments. I wanted to unite the
quintessence of Nature and archaic elements (rhythm as the primal origin of every music,
as something that gives birth to music), theatrical qualities and a new articulation of
tonality with the 'classical' tonal language of this century and produce some kind of -
New Music. Only such a unity can represent the free expansion (quasi trans-avantgardism)
of present day music...", I paraphrase the words of Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic, whose Second
Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra represents the musical elucidation of its
Zivkovic's three-movement Concerto for Marimba and
Orchestra a due, with reinforced percussion section and the harp, resembles the
traditional formal solution of a sonata cycle of this kind - only in the number of its
movements. Nevertheless, the formal patterns of the movements do not correspond to the
traditional distribution: sonata-form, a complex three-part song- rondo. They look more
like a series of three musical entities where, owing to the programmatic idea of the work,
the sounds of the instruments of totally different cultures first "rival" one
another, then unite. The expected soloist cadenza from the first movement, therefore,
re-emerges in the last. Nevertheless, even if the author did not follow the classical
musical forms in conceiving the concert, the character of this three musical wholes is
traditional: the first is the exposition (but not in sonata form), the second movement is
slow while the third, not the simple "dance in the circle" of the rondo, but
rather a scherzo with an expressionistic, pagan intonation.
As the author himself says, this concerto is a kind of
ritual where an individual is accepted into a community after a certain ritual of
"initiation". Symbolically, it is the marimba, an instrument entirely foreign to
the classical orchestral ensemble, that is "accepted" into the group.
Essentially, involves the problem of conflict between the traditional and the new, where,
paradoxically, the new is older than the old. Such a bond in fact represents a unity of
folklore music ( taken in the broader sense) with art music, and its final results offers
a certain type of ethnic style in the music written at the end of this century.
The programmatically conceived first movement - Introduzione,
Iniziazione del Legno (Initiation of the Wood) - introduces the participants
with the "dim", "indefinite", "foreboding" repetition of
"arche-motifs" in the introductory part of the instrument that has the task of
"proving" itself and the orchestra that "appraises" it. It is a free
three-part form (slow-fast-slow) with a continuos dialogue between the soloist and the
tutti based on an analogous musical material derived from the initial musical nucleus
assigned to the marimba. The Phrygian mode in D is the modal foundation of this movement,
although the modal center is changed in its central part. The musical subject-matter of
the first movement, after its introductory section, comprises a ritual dance governed by
the art of the mixed-rhythm, where the marimba represents both: a percussion and the
melodic instrument that carries the main theme of the ritual, later treated in variations,
i.e. deconstructed, in other groups of instruments. The new theme in the orchestra,
simultaneous with the main theme, is only a "background" for the marimba's solo
performance. This support of the soloist theme is the symbolic sign of
"acceptance" by the community, and the solemnity of that moment is reinforced by
an expansion of the percussive body with Chinese gongs and Christian liturgy glockenspiel.
The absence of the main soloist cadenza from this movement is entirely justified. In a
classical concerto, it represents the solo instrument as the main sound source that
dominates the whole orchestral body but that could not happen here, at least not in the
first movement. Because it has just been accepted, only after being "interwoven"
in the second movement, the marimba is "permitted" to distinguish itself in the
community towards the end of the third movement. However, even in the first two movement,
this work has soloist entries of the marimba, and its virtuoso tonal possibilities are in
the forefront. One could say that this is a characteristic feature of the author, the
feature justified by the concerto form of the work (as stated in its title).
Exhaustion by dancing penetrates the "night"
of the second movement, subtitled Notturno. This "little night
music" is more of an accompanying pause, a tremolo vibration of the whole sound
source, than the serene evening rest. Soloist entries of orchestral instruments are
emphasized (violoncello, bass-clarinet, flute, oboe, horn, trumpet) like commentaries of
the performance of those introduced in the "initiation" movement. Marimba plays
the basic melody in octaves, while the melodic component of orchestral representatives, as
the author states, is brought to the forefront.
This musical theme is based on the harmony of fourths of
the basic tone E, and its central part echoes the classical modulation in a dominant
tonality. By the principle of variational arrangement, the descending series, first in the
flutes, creates a developing form with the pause in the center bearing the dynamic mark piano
pianissimo. At this point, there is a "twinkling" of "thin"
flageolet tones of strings. A return to the previous musical material before the final
calming of this nocturnal music is marked by yet another agitated section whose broken
motion in triplets nervously pushes up to the high wood-winds. Somewhat eclectic, this
movement closes with aleatoric sound effects, echoing the method of the Polish school.
Attacca, the longest and most energetic misterioso
ma concitato third movement of the concerto begins with the low E on which the
second movement ends. "Very excited, feverish", the author emphasizes as the
character of this movement. After a slow introduction - whose crescendo sounds like a
scream, due to the perfectly applied aleatoric effects of indefinite pitch in the strings
- a frees form (but not the character!) of rondo is exposed, soloist and the orchestra
"compete" in technical mastery of polymetry and polyrhythm, with intermittent
rhythms of modern rock-music.4 The marimba, the one already
"accepted" into the community has the most difficult virtuoso part in comparison
to the previous musical themes. Here, the soloist is a virtuoso in the proper sense of the
word, specifically proven by the cadenza at the and of the movement, where the
percussionist, echoing the tradition of early classical concerts, is permitted to
improvise his performance.5 The harmonic resolution of the end of this movement
which began on the sound of tone E is also classical: there is a skip from tone D to the
leading tone F sharp, then to the Phrygian second degree and finally to the tonic of G.
his movement is a tour-de-force of the whole work where both the soloist and orchestra
musicians have equally difficult tasks to perform.
Although the focus of attention in this concert is on
the soloist, one should stress that the orchestral body is significantly sustained thanks
to the programmatic idea of the work. This is evident not only in the soloist entries of
individual instruments or groups of instruments, but also in the technical skill the
author requires from them, particularly when the strings are engaged as a foundation of
the orchestra, all section from violin to the double bass, with all possible manners of
playing, and an abundance of divisis and flageolet tones.
The pagan expressionism of the Concerto for Marimba
and Orchestra No. 2, op. 25, by Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic, places in the foreground an
unusual solo instrument, and therefore the rhythm here is the basic driving element. It is
then not surprising that the score shows occasional echoes of Stravinsky and Bartók,
whose works gave rhythm the significance of melody. In that sense the orchestration of
this piece periodically treats other instruments also as percussion instruments.
The music of Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic, although
stylistically directed toward expressionism, occasionally has aleatoric provisions of
indefinite pitch that echo, when realized, the Polish school composers from the 1960's (as
we have already mentioned). At the same time, the composer desires to write "music of
sonorous colors" entirely in agreement with the nature of the sound of the marimba,
whose "eastern" intonation (owing certainly to the whole-tone departures, as
well) confirms the idea that this work represents an amalgamation of folklore and art
music of a certain post-ethnic style in contemporary music.
This whole cycle could be presented as a three-part
ritual between the soloist and the orchestra: test-alliance-contest. The final result of
the last item is not possible to define - the game of competing is unsolved, however not
to the regret of the participants but to their satisfaction. The game is important (where
the both "partners" are equal) of these two sound media, which can be combined
regardless of their origin and the accompanying tradition. The Second Concerto for
Marimba and Orchestra opens up possibilities for new investigations into the specific
aspect of communication between the exotic (folklore) and the classical in twentieth
(Translated by Ksenija Todorovic)
1 The premier performing of this work was on April
9, 1997, in Munich, Germany, at the famous Herkulessaal, with the Munich Symphony
Orchestra, Jeanpierre Faber conducted. The soloist was the author himself.
2 Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic (1962) is certainly one of
the most interesting concert percussionists worldwide, equally engaged in the standard
repertoire and new works written primarily for marimba. He graduated in composition,
musical theory and percussion instruments at the Heidelberg-Mannheim Hochschule für
Musik, and attended postgraduate studies at Stuttgart Hochschule für Musik. Since 1984,
he has had regular concert tours in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Japan,
Korea, Taiwan and repeteadely to the U.S.A. Apart from the works for the marimba and other
percussion instruments, his opus comprises works of orchestral and chamber music. The
following could be quoted as significant: Corale for thirteen wind and percussion
instruments, In Errinerungen schwebend for three flutes and vibraphone, Der
Himmel ist über mir geschlossen for string orchestra, female choir and bass solo, Concerto
for Marimba and Orchestra No. 1, Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra, etc. He has
made several compact discs with his works as well as works of other authors. For more
information on Nebojsa Zivkovic, visit his official web site.
3 The marimba belongs to a group of percussion
instruments with definite pitch with a range of five octaves. It is made of a series of
wooden plates, usually palisander, with metal pipes-resonators underneath them. It comes
from Africa, but has been profusely used in Latin-American folklore. Since recently it has
become very popular in art music, particularly in percussion ensembles.
4 At the and of this century elements of different
kinds of music are so intermingled that sometimes it is almost impossible to name
something properly that sounds so familiar, so "close to our hearing".
5 The score of this concert, received from the
author himself, has no cadenza, although some later commentaries by the composer indicated
his desire to write it down properly.