1(=picc)-1-alto sax (=sop sax)-0-1 / 1-1-0-0 / 1 perc / hp / strings*
* String parts may be played by small sections (say, 5-5-3-3-2), or by soloists
Commissioned by the Adelaide Chamber Orchestra with financial assistance from the Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council for the Arts
First performance by Patricia Pollett and the Biennial Sinfonietta conducted by James MacMillan, Queensland Biennial Festival of Music, Queensland Art Gallery, 25 July 1999
The Unquiet Grave (1997 – 98) for viola and chamber orchestra
This viola concerto in all but name was composed in three concentrated bursts over more than a year. The opening page of the score was written in a New York hotel room in January 1997, the day after I had conducted the first performance of my large ensemble work, Dance Maze, in Pittsburgh. Because I spent most of 1997 working on the radio programs and book of Illegal Harmonies, I was unable to return to the first page of my concerto until near the end of that year. By now, I had re-read Cyril Connolly’s book, The Unquiet Grave, and I had looked up the English folk song from which it took its name. Both the title and the tune became attached to my concerto. The next ten minutes of the piece were composed in less than a week during a stay in Kangaroo Valley, NSW. After another break from the piece, it was finally put to bed in April 1998, by which time I was resident in the Peggy Glanville-Hicks composers’ house in Sydney’.
The Unquiet Grave was written for Patricia Pollett, to whom it is dedicated. It was commissioned, with the assistance of the Music Fund of the Australia Council, by the Adelaide Chamber Orchestra, but in the time it took to complete, they went out of business. Consequently Patricia Pollett gave the first performance at the Queensland Art Gallery, during the 1999 Queensland Biennial Festival of Music. The Biennial Sinfonietta was conducted by James MacMillan.
The piece plays for about 17 minutes and just before the end, the English folk song, “The Unquiet Grave”, is quoted in full. The final page of the score bears the inscription “in memoriam Michael Tippett 1905 – 1998”.