AUROLUCENT CIRCLES
Concerto for Solo Percussion and Orchestra 

Composed: 2002, revised 2004
Commission:  B. Marken Corporation for Evelyn Glennie
Premiere:  Evelyn Glennie, Percussion, Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz, conductor, November 7, 2002
Duration:  28 minutes
Instrumentation:  3[2nd alt. fl., 3rd picc.] 2 E.H.22; 432+Btbn 1; timp.; 3 perc (opt. perc. 4 and 5) 2 hp., strings

PROGRAM NOTES

I.  Floating in Dark Space
II.  Stardance
III.  Cycles and Currents

Written for Evelyn Glennie, this concerto was conceived to show the wonderful array of delicate and mysterious percussion sounds as well as the more traditional drumming.  The aim was to make a concerto that would be as sophisticated as that of one for the violin or piano.  In the delicate and transparent sections, the soloist is often accompanied only by one of two concertino groups.  The first group consists of 2 flutes, 2 harps, 2 section percussion, solo strings, and 1 trombone, and is used in various combinations.  The second group is a concertino of 5 woodwinds.  Lyrical and intimate sections of either solo percussion, or solo accompanied by concertino players are contrasted with loud drum solos accompanied by full orchestra. 

Inspired by the poetic motion of Evelyn Glennie when she performs, it became an important aim in this work for there to be motion in the sound as well. The second movement, which was composed first, was planned as a dance of sound and motion.  Beginning with the soloist and gradually including the center concertino group, Stardance begins with the sound and visual motion of bells ringing in the solo percussion as well as the section percussion who are positioned around the stage.  As more members of the orchestra begin to play, there are sections where the sound begins in one part of the stage and floats or swings to another.  In addition, sometimes in full orchestral sections, the sound sweeps from side to side of the stage in a waltz-like motion.

The first movement begins with blurred colors, sounds and mysterious melodies. Becoming increasingly driving, it ends with fast, telescoping patterns of notes grouped according to the Fibonacci number series.  The third movement is a quick-moving perpetual motion that begins with a five-note rhythmic motive circling around the back and sides of the stage between the orchestral percussionists.  The soloist interrupts with a drum solo that leads to an interaction with the woodwind concertino.  This is contrasted with sections of bright, full orchestral sound.  Continuing in non-stop forward motion throughout, the rhythm develops and the five-note pattern evolves into further use of the Fibonacci series. 

The name Aurolucent Circles was inspired by the sparkling and lucent sound of so many of the percussion instruments used in the concerto.  That along with the circling of the sound around the stage brought to mind the aurora borealis (an electrical atmospheric phenomenon consisting of luminous meteoric streamers, bands, hazy curtains, and streamers of light in the night sky).  “Aurolucent” combines the words aurora and lucent.

REVIEWS

Percussive piece showcases talents of Margaret Brouwer "Ms. Brouwer, has one of the most delicate ears and inventive imaginations among contemporary American composers. Compare her percussion concerto, "Aurolucent Circles," to another recent one by Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, "Rituals". Ms. Brouwer not only gets more seductive sounds out of the instruments, she also creates a dramatic through line that keeps the attention riveted for 27 minutes. The music is laid out spatially, so that phrases and motifs jump or flow across the soundstage..."  -  Lawson Taitte, The Dallas Morning News, February 11, 2006


Glennie and Seattle Symphony make the pulses pound  "The American composer, who was in the house to receive the rapturous applause along with Glennie, has written a marvelous display piece that takes into account the astonishing virtuosity of Glennie and the need to be careful not to overwhelm her with the collective sound of nearly 100 musicians. Brouwer's music is effective and solid, often rather atmospheric, and gives the percussion soloist many opportunities. The vigorous phrases of strong fortes and excited passages are deftly joined with their opposite numbers. There is much to keep one interested, especially with Glennie as the chief proponent. The duets between soloist and other orchestral instruments- flutes, trombone, clarinet- were cleverly conceived and integrated into the whole...So subtle, so bold, so precisely timed and framed, her bravura playing of the new "Aurolucent Circles" by Margaret Brouwer drew a fascinated Benaroya Hall audience to its feet...The delicate and lovely effects at the beginning of the first and second movements were particularly well framed, in music that sounded appropriately other-worldly with harps and eerie string glissandos... "  -Melinda Bargreen, Seattle Times, November 9, 2002


"...The dynamic range borders on awesome - from whispers of metal tintinnabulation that open the first movement, "Floating in Dark Space," to whirligig outbursts engendered in third, "Cycles and Currents" (whose rhythmic basis is the 13th-Century "Fibonacci Number Series").  But the expressive crux of the work is its central and longest movement, "Stardance," the first to be written, with "bells ringing in the solo percussion as well as the [orchestra section's] percussion, positioned around the stage... Inspired by the poetic physical motion of Evelyn Glennie when she performs, Brouwer writes, "it became an important aim that there be motion as well as sound...."   - Roger Dettmer, www.classicalcdreview.com, March 2006


“Based on this excellent new Naxos recording, (Brouwer) has an individual voice with a fine ear for orchestral colors. Her 2002 Concerto for Evelyn Glennie – ‘Aurolucent Circles’ – is immediately arresting, with its powerfully phrased opening voiced in the lower strings. The evocative entrance of Glennie in its potent mystery reminded me of some of Holst’s outer and more arcane planets. This is appropriate, as the concerto’s first movement is titled ‘Floating in Dark Space.’ Besides virtuoso passages for the soloist accompanied by full orchestra, the work has strongly contrasting sections employing two concertino groups which show off the very fine first-desk players in the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. Glennie’s solos cover a kaleidoscopic range of percussion instruments and colors. The second movement, ‘Stardust,’ takes those colors and plays them about the stage, drifting and more often sweeping through various sections of the orchestra. The final movement, ‘Cycles and Dances,’ continues the notion of motion about and through the orchestra in a frenetic dance interrupted by lower brass – a favorite gesture of Brouwer’s. Glennie is the star around which all this revolves. The recording of the concerto (and the remainder of the disc as well) is both exciting and detailed, with a convincing sense of space around the instruments.”  -  Michael Fine, Fanfare: The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors, May - June 2006


“Brouwer writes that her aim ‘was to make a concerto that would be as musically sophisticated as the ones usually written for violin and piano.’ She has succeeded. ‘Aurolucent Circles’ is not a primitive ‘bash-fest,’ but a structurally refined and sensitive work of frequently haunting beauty. The interactions between Glennie and two smaller concertino groups give rise to exquisite sonorities. (Halfway through the first movement, the marimba gorgeously combines first with a trombone and then with a violin.) One does not expect to be seduced by a percussion concerto. It happens here.” – Raymond S. Tuttle, International Record Review, June 2006