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OZNO | Piccolo Concerto (World Premiere)



OZNO (b. 1969)

Piccolo Concerto, op. 22(2020)

World Premiere, HK Phil Commission


Download the Programme Notes



My Piccolo Concerto was commissioned by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, for Jaap van Zweden and Linda Stuckey. It belongs to a series of works – Social Distancing, Table Music, Zoon Project, Red Metals, 22.4 and Weichi, which I wrote during the pandemic. In one way or another, each piece reflects on its impact.


It has been a treasured experience, writing for the “dream team”: my wife, Music Director and the HK Phil. Sitting in an orchestra for many years, one can hear the individual qualities of an instrument in countless situations and acoustics. I wanted to emphasise my favourite characteristics of this incredible instrument, highlighting these qualities, as well as the unbelievable technical and expressive mastery of this “dream team”.


This 20-minute work’s form is a surreal journey for the soloist to carefully navigate through the six interlocking “preludes”. In rehearsals, Jaap has compared a composer completely and abruptly changing scenes or moods in a piece to “changes the channel” – flicking through different channels on a TV. That idea permeates my compositions.


1. Down the Rabbit Hole – In the opening chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “Down the Rabbit-Hole,” Alice follows the White Rabbit into his burrow, which transports her to the strange, surreal and nonsensical world of Wonderland. The piccolo player finds herself in strange orchestral scenes for the remainder of the concerto. This movement ends with the piccolo hypnotising the whole orchestra into its swirling patterns, leaving the horns and trombones sounding dizzy.


2. Turing Test – Alan Turing proposed a way of testing a computer’s ability to think. Could a human detect that they are communicating with a machine on the other side of their screen? If so, the computer failed the test. Here a melody is proposed by the brass and the piccolo answers twice as fast, the movement paints the buzzing, purring, complex math of the machine, which eventually overheats.


3. Zoom – The piccolo has a “zoom call” with the timpanist offstage, and two flutes spread at distance. This is the only appearance of the flutes and timpani in the concerto. The rest of the orchestra whispers occasional gossip.


4. Obsequies – a funeral rite or burial ceremony. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “The obsequies that I for thee will keep, Nightly shall be to strew thy grave and weep.” The piccolo shines with long sustained notes over the orchestra like a soul separated from the body.


5. Trip the Light Fantastic – This expression was originated by John Milton in L’Allegro (1632): “Come and trip it as ye go, On the light fantastick toe.” To “trip the light fantastic” is to dance nimbly or lightly, or to move in a pattern to musical accompaniment. A mixedmetre nimble dance for orchestra and soloist.


6. Antonio’s 16ths – There is a passage in the first movement of Antonio Vivaldi’s Piccolo Concerto in C that has always impressed me when I heard Linda play it. This playful movement pays homage to the 16th note arpeggiated figure used by Antonio, and pushes the virtuosity of the soloist to the limit.


I would like to give special thanks to Maestro Jaap van Zweden, Maestro Lio Kuokman and the HK Phil management who after two previous attempts of cancelled performances, believed in this work to find its premiere tonight.

Programme note by OZNO





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