You are on page 1of 29

Robin Holloway's Second Concerto for Orchestra:

A Masterpiece Bridging Romanticism and Modernism


Keane Southard

MUSC 5151
Professor Leong
May 2 2011
Southard 2


Robin Holloway's Second Concerto for Orchestra is an orchestral tour-de-force and a

masterwork of the late twentieth century. In this gigantic and virtuosic work, the composer

successfully bridges the modern/constructivist, the lyrical/romantic, and popular/kitsch worlds to

produce a work that does not play down any of these aesthetic viewpoints, but pays homage to them all

through the creation of a remarkable work of art. As the British composer and writer Julian Anderson

writes, “Some of Holloway's most striking and successful achievements have been the most complex

and conscientiously constructed, notably the mammoth Second Concerto for Orchestra (a richly

elaborate tapestry incorporating fragments of Chopin and popular tunes English and Italian, making

constructivism manifestly audible by using material familiar to all.)”1

Background on Holloway

Robin Holloway was born on October 19, 1943 in Leamington Spa, England, which is in the

central part of the country. His music education began at age seven, when he became a chorister at St.

Paul's Cathedral in London. He entered the University of Cambridge as an English Literature major,

but began taking composition lessons with Alexander Goehr, and later switched his major to

composition. While he claims he didn't learn very much about composition from Goehr, this teacher

was nevertheless a great influence and presence in his life. As a result of this lack of composition

instruction, something which he in some ways resisted, Holloway is somewhat a self-taught composer,

and even admits some of his technical faults,

But in spite of my refusal to be trained, I am crazy for technical things, for exactitude,
for saying exactly what you mean. I don't want any Henze-like splurging and
sploshing. It's strange, because so much of my music is bound up with tonality, but I
couldn't harmonize the National Anthem, or write an academic fugue. I admit it's very
1. Julian Anderson, “An Introduction to Holloway's Music,” Boosey & Hawkes.
Focus (accessed April 14, 2011)
Southard 3

arrogant and cussed. I wanted to do all those things my own way, I didn't want to be

Holloway went on to earn his doctorate from Oxford University, writing his dissertation on

Debussy and Wagner, which was later published as a book.

Speaking of his earliest compositions, Holloway says, “The construction was motivic

and motoric, a churn of notes, spun out like Hindemith. Schoenberg and Hindemith to me have

a lot in common, they are two sides of the inter-war German coin. This just happened to be the

atonal version of Hindemith.”3 In 1970, his musical language took a turn with his piece Scenes

from Schumann. In this work, he first adopted a free use of neo-romantic and tonal elements as

a resource for free expression and something that can then be modernized. Holloway explains

that in this piece, “the starting point is the beautiful and the comforting, which is then

modernized.”4 Composing this piece brought about a turn in Holloway's musical language, and

ever since he has freely mixed both the romantic/tonal and modern/constructivist worlds in his

music. Since 1975, he has been a professor of music at the University of Cambridge. In

addition to composing, he is a prolific writer about music, including many journal articles,

book reviews, and a music column in a monthly magazine. Holloway's music is not well

known in the United States, and while he claims, “I'm very little played, given my age, as

compared obviously to the minimalists, certainly less than a [Oliver] Knussen, a [Marc-

Anthony] Turnage, a [Colin] Matthews, an [Thomas] Ades,” he is considerably more well-

known and performed in his home country.5

2. Ivan Hewitt, “Composer in Interview: Robin Holloway,” Tempo 57, no. 226 (Oct. 2003)
(accessed Feb. 20, 2011): 15.
3. Ibid., 13.
4. Ibid., 14.
5. Ibid., 18.
Southard 4

Background on Second Concerto for Orchestra

Holloway's Second Concerto for Orchestra (he has written a total of five concerti for orchestra

to date) was commissioned by the Scottish National Orchestra Society and the University of Glasgow

for the 1979 Musica Nova Festival where it was premiered by the Scottish National Orchestra. Scored

for a large orchestra, triple woodwinds plus saxophone, full brass, four percussionists playing a host of

instruments including nine anvils, plus piano, harp, and a minimum of sixty string players, Holloway

recalls that “someone described my Second Concerto for Orchestra as 'Ives recomposed by Varese and

orchestrated by Ravel.'”6 Speaking of the background and inspiration for the work, he explains,

“There's one work and one composer that I didn't know before I wrote my Second
Concerto without which it would not be what it is, sound-wise, and that's Varese
Ameriques...I was absolutely blown away by this hugeness, the extravagance, the sort
of rhetoric and orchestral bravura of that amazing piece, and something of that I think
gets into my Second Concerto...It's inspired by landscapes. It's inspired by travels,
things seen, things heard, things smelt, things felt, mainly things heard, of course,
traveling in North Africa. And superimposing them upon big-city sounds the world
over and particularly the Ivesian mixture of popular musics you get in Italian cities
where different bands, the Piazza at Venice, different bands playing different popular
tunes, different keys, different speeds, in the same enormous space. Many spatial
stimuli went into it. It's a kind of collage of my life in Cambridge, my travels all over
the place, especially the North African experience, the most immediate background to

He explains further in his program notes to the piece,

“I began it at Easter 1978, completed the sketch by August, and the full score by the
following spring. The background inspiration was a visit over the turn of 1977-78 to
North Africa. I was excited by the extremes of contrast - opulence and austerity,
richness and drabness both of colour and texture, brilliant light and dense shadow,
fertility and barrenness. And above all, the noises: in the working quarters of old cities
there were no distorting sounds of traffic, but only the polyphony of hammering,
tapping, thudding, tinkling, bashing, on all varieties of wood, stone and metal.”8

6. Ibid., 15.
7. Robin Holloway, “Second Concerto for Orchestra, op. 40,” Robin Holloway, (accessed Feb. 20, 2011)
8. Robin Holloway, liner notes for Second Concerto for Orchestra, by Robin Holloway, NMC D015M, 1993,
Compact Disc.
Southard 5

Large-scale Formal Structure

Second Concerto for Orchestra is in three movements that last a combined thirty-three minutes.

The three movements form a balance by equal size outer movements around a large central movement.

As Holloway explains in his program notes, “Since the third is an altered reply of the first, the overall

shape could be likened to a body (or a building) with a pair of matching wings. But more important

than the symmetry is the sense of a journey through a shape that accumulates, making the final stage

different from the first in being from the start aimed towards a definite goal.”9

Movement I

Movement one, which lasts 7'04” in the recording by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the

baton of Oliver Knussen, consists of a series of seemingly unconnected ideas. As Holloway explains in

his program notes, “The first movement presents a rapid succession of apparently unconnected ideas

(each instrument or section has its own), bound together only by a sort of continuo on unpitched

percussion. The character is fragmentry; everything leans forward and is cut short without rest or

culmination.”10 The work begins with this percussion “continuo” which consists of a ppp triangle hit

and snare drum roll. The first motivic idea comes in this same first measure, where two clarinets a

perfect fifth apart play in a quarter-note, dotted-eighth-rest, two thirty-second-notes, quarter-note

rhythm, which I've labeled as motive “A”. Immediately following this is a quick chromatic flourish in

sixteenth and quintuplet sixteenth-notes by dovetailing flutes: motive B. The percussion continuo of

triangle and snare drum roll return again for a half-note's length, followed by a melodic tritone ascent

and decent in clarinet doubled by cello: motive C. Before it is finished, the A and B motives occur

again. This passage is shown in Example 1 below.

9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
Southard 6

Example 1

This process of new ideas and motives being rapidly introduced yet never being extended or

developed, continues throughout most of this movement. While only analyzing and identifying

motives in about the first half of the movement, I found fifteen separate ideas, up to the letter “O”

before realizing that a complete analysis of this large work would and all the separate motives would be

outside the scope of this essay. Some of the other motives that are notable include a descending

“scurrying” (because it reminds me of an animal that is spotted and then scurrys off into the forest)

melody in parallel major-thirds in the violins using a variety of rhythms, including triplet-eighths and

quintuplet-sixteenths, which I have identified as motive E (Ex. 2). Shortly after comes a static,

atmospheric chord build out of four stacked perfect fifths separated by a minor third in divided violas

and harp: motive F (Ex. 3).

Southard 7

Example 2 Example 3

Throughout the introduction of these motives, the unpitched percussion continuo is still there, although

constantly changing instruments, including suspended cymbal, tambourine, temple blocks, anvils,

claves, whip, side drum, and maracas, among others. It's method of binding the pitch ideas together

seems to be by both filling in the temporal gaps between the motives and by simply always being

present as a background “voice” accompanying every occurrence of an idea. The common thread is

that every idea using pitch is accompanied by an unpitched idea.

Motives are also reused and reappear several times in different contexts throughout the

movement. As Holloway wrote in an email to me, “In [the]1st mvt the material is continually intercut/
Southard 8

discontinued--it needs to be connected up later.”11 This lack of unity in the seven-minute first

movement demands that there will be significant connections formed in the rest of this extended work.

However, these connections do begin to form by the end of the first movement. The texture up to this

point has been fairly thin, not yet having reached a full orchestral “tutti”. At rehearsal marker 21 on

page 37, we begin with an orchestrationally expanded E motive, at fff, with violins in parallel thirds,

doubled by flute, piccolo, and clarinets. This then leads nicely into a fragmented B motive, which

continues the parallel thirds. The A motive in returns trumpets including its percussion continuo of

triangle and snare drum roll, which overlaps with the C melodic tritone motive (Ex. 4).

Example 4

11. Robin Holloway, “Re: Second Concerto for Orchestra Analysis.” 16 April, 2011. Personal Email.
Southard 9

While these connections are not very strong, it is the beginning of a process of connecting that will

continue throughout the rest of the piece. While these signs of connections have begun, they are not

allowed space to develop further, as the work then dives headlong into the second movement.

Movement II

At about nineteen minutes in length, movement II is the central and most massive movement of

the work. Whereas the first movement presented ideas that were unconnected, this movement, in a

stream-of-consciousness or free associative way engaging the subconscious, allows space for this

material to join up and play freely, even launching into music and melodies that have been heard

before, resulting in quotations. As Holloway explained to me, “The 2nd mvt is episodic--each episode

explores/exploits/explodes an idea only glinted at in the 1st; but, rather than continuity, we get 'one

damn thing after another'; & the dream-quotes (not present in 1st, of course) remain surreal...(2nd

[movement] is dream-transformations of intake from previous day in 1st; nightmares; gigantifications

in slumber; climax of erotic merge-&-seperation. [sic])”12 It consists of six episodes followed by a

cadenza before melting away into the third and final movement.

The first episode quickly sets up a lullaby-like texture in a rock-a-bye compound time that

switches between 6/8 and 9/8. Adding to this feel is the emergence of rocking/lullaby motives, such as

those that appear in the violins on page 39 (Ex. 5). These motives are mutations of two motives that

appear in the first movement on page 8 in the cellos (Ex. 6) and page 19 in the horns (Ex. 7).

Example 5 Example 6 Example 7

12. Ibid.
Southard 10

More specifically, the top violin lullaby motive is a rhythmic augmentation and adjustment of intervals

of the cello motive, while the lower violin lullaby motive is also a rhythmic augmentation and

adjustment of intervals of the horn motive. These motives are a foreshadowing, or perhaps a trigger,

for a quotation of Chopin's Barcarolle, Op. 60, for piano. The lullaby motives are introduced, but it is

not until a Gb5 is introduced in the first violin part, which overlaps with the first note of the quote's

melody, which is an enharmonic F#5, that the music launches into this quotation played by the

orchestral piano. The following examples compare the original passage, from the beginning of the

middle section, from Chopin (Ex. 8) with the quote in Holloway's piece (Ex. 9).

Example 8

Example 9
Southard 11

Through this playing around with motives in a dream-like free associative state, these lullaby motives

have now grown into a full memory, as if the listener (or composer?) has been reminded of a tune they

once heard, although they do not remember it exactly or very much of it. The quote emerges out of a

fog of diminuendo-ing and impressionistic, yet non-tonal strings, and the quote is accompanied by the

unpitched percussion continuo, now just tenor and bass drums, yet in a different meter (5/8 as opposed

to the piano's 6/8) and different tempo (both players are given considerable freedom in choosing a

tempo). This, along with the fact that the pianist is instructed to play “quasi lontano”, maintains the

atmosphere that this quote is just a part of the dreamscape, and the piece is not turning into a 19th

century piano solo. The quote emerges in F#-major, which happens to be the key of the Chopin piece,

yet this quotation actually comes from the middle section of the piece, which has modulated to A-

major. Perhaps the quote is being misremembered or misplaced as the beginning of the piece. In

addition, at the end of this four-measure quote, we have a breakdown of the tonality. As the original

passage modulates at this point, so too does the quote. Here it tonicizes F- major with a V7-I

progression via a dotted rhythm motive in the right hand landing on our new tonic, F. Yet this motive is

overlapped by an imitation in the left hand, which is still in the key of F#-major. With this tonal

conflict, the quote then recedes back into the dream texture.

The same quote returns to the forefront of the texture just a few measures later, again in F#-

major but becoming even more tonally ambiguous as it breaks down in the end, landing on a Bb6/4

chord, which is then lost through the overlapping imitation in the left hand in what sounds like E-

lydian. This is all accompanied by lingering lullaby motives in the clarinets and cellos at the beginning

and throughout by the tenor and bass drums, like in the first quote, but now temple blocks are added, to

be played “like footsteps.” All of the instruments here are at different tempi and meters. This further

confusion of the tonal center as well as increased accompaniment may suggest that the quote is

becoming even more hazy and distant and misremembered.

Southard 12

Another identifiable quotation is used, actually before the Chopin quote, but much more

inconspicuous and veiled. At rehearsal marker 22, just seven measures into the second movement, a

muted trombone, somewhere between the foreground and background, intones the first two phrases of

the melody of the anthem “Jerusalem,” with words by William Blake and later set to music by English

composer Hubert Parry in 1916. “Jerusalem” is considered to be one of the most patriotic of all

English songs, and is popular amongst all in Holloway's native country, so it is appropriate that he uses

it in this context as it is a melody that has entered the collective unconscious of a certain culture.

Below is a comparison of the tune (Ex. 10) with its quote in Holloway's work (Ex. 11).

Example 10

Example 11

While the pitch material, when transposed from D-major to G-major, stays faithful to the original, the

rhythms are treated freely and the last portion of each phrase is significantly extended in duration. The

second phrase, by being written entirely in quintuplets, gives the feeling of this quote being in a
Southard 13

different meter (5/4) from the rest of the orchestra in (6/8). During the rest of this first episode of the

second movement, the remaining phrases of the tune are completed, in much the same fashion, by a

trumpet, although now the tune has been transposed to C-major.

As with the Chopin quote, the seeds of the “Jerusalem” quote lie latent in the disconnected ideas

of the first movement. The first four notes of the the tune consist of three eighth-note pickups that

ascend by thirds, and end with a major second to land on the accented downbeat of the measure (see

Ex. 10). Roughly half-way through the first movement, this is foreshadowed by similar motives in the

double basses and piano. On page 23, the double basses enter with a rising melody in which its first

three notes have identical rhythmic values and then briefly land on a longer rhythm for the fourth note

(Ex. 12). In terms of the pitch material, it begins with an ascending third, like the “Jerusalem” melody,

and then continues to ascend through each subsequent pitch. Three measures later, at the beginning of

page 24, the piano has a similar motive: a rising melody through three equal durations followed by a

longer duration. This motive happens three times, the first time only using seconds, the second using

minor thirds, which is most similar to the Jerusalem tune (Ex. 13).

Example 12 Example 13

In the second episode, we reach the biggest climax of the piece so far. This happens on page 58,

where a harmonic progression of VII – V6/5 – I – VII – N – IV in E-major takes place at ff with the

full tutti orchestra. However, this basic progression is complicated by many added and chromatic tones

to the chords, yet there is no denying the aural effect of this section, as it sounds tonal with traditional

harmonic functions taking place. In the main melody of this section, heard most prominently in the
Southard 14

first trumpet part (marked “solo”), we find a motive that comes from another quote which will be more

fully displayed later on in the movement. For the last four notes of the first phrase of this melody, we

have an eighth-note G# which then is followed by a triplet sixteenth ornament-like turn on F#-G#-F#

and then landing on E on the second half of the first beat (Ex. 14). In E major, this is a resolution

within the major scale, with scale degrees 3-2-3-2-1. When transposed to G-major, these pitches, along

with the rhythms, form the end of the final phrase of the verse in the popular Italian song “O Sole Mio”

(“My Sun”) (Ex. 15).

Example 14 Example 15

Shortly after this, the climax is extended to include our first instance of and depiction of

“hammering.” As Holloway explains,

I was very thrilled in the city of Fez [Morocco in North Africa] by all the...quarters of
the city where craftsmen did their different crafts, often extremely audible, banging,
hammering, clattering, carpentering. There is no vehicle traffic in that city, so sounds
of human activities are extremely clear and uninterrupted. You sense, as you walk
around, you walk through these things, nearer to them, close, right through, then they
recede, but the next one has taken over. And it's an extraordinary mixture of human
activities, physical, visual, and the sounds they make. And this passage is something
just like that, the sound of ferocious hammering seen from some distance then suddenly
you are right in the middle of it and the whole orchestra turns into a kind of gigantic
hammering, not just the unpitched percussion, where it begins, but the entire orchestra
becomes a sort of succession of battering, hammering on metal, wood or stone.13

On page 60, we have the entire orchestra bursting out in huge tutti chords at ff plus the clarinets,

saxophone, and harp adding rapid descending glissandi. These chords are build by alternating minor

13. Robin Holloway, “Second Concerto for Orchestra, op. 40,” Robin Holloway, (accessed Feb. 20, 2011)
Southard 15

thirds and perfect fifths from E2 up to A6, creating a chord with all twelve pitches of the aggregate (Ex.


Example 16

This chord actually has its roots in the very beginning of the entire work. The first interval we hear, the

A motive, is a repeated harmonic perfect fifth (see Ex. 1). Then the opening melodic interval of the B

motive, the flute flourish, is a minor third (see Ex. 1). It is these two intervals that are being stacked to

make this very dissonant chord, which is very suitable to the title of a “hammer.” In addition, after all

of the pitched instruments, there follows an intense build up of literal hammering by the four

percussionists, each banging away at two anvils that accumulate until all eight are at ff (Ex. 17).

Example 17
Southard 16

In the next episode of the second movement, we get a more extended quotation of “O Sole

Mio.” On page 63, the beginning of the refrain, minus the repetition of its second subphrase, is heard in

the oboes, playing the melody in parallel minor thirds (see Ex. 18 and Ex. 19 below for a comparison).

More specifically, the second oboe, plays the tune in the original key of G-major, yet is always

accompanied by the first oboe a minor third above (playing the tune in Bb-major). In the quotation,

because the rest of the orchestra is in 6/8, the eighth-notes in the original are changed to dotted-eighths

in order to maintain a duple feel for the quote.

Example 18

Example 19
Southard 17

It seems that this tune may have come out of the E motive from the first movement, which, like the

quotation, has a descending contour in parallel thirds (see Ex. 2).

These are the three tunes that I have been able to identify as being used for quotations in this

piece. The Chopin I was able to identify on my own, based on my own previous experience with the

piece, and the other two were found thanks to Holloway himself mentioning in a personal email to me

that he used them. There are numerous other tunes, original or not, that can be heard throughout the

second movement, which are treated in similar ways to the quotations discussed. What all these tunes

and musical material have in common is that they are well known. As Holloway writes, “I think I sort-

of wanted to rwrite [sic] the [Elliot] Carter [Concerto for Orchestra], but using popular material so as to

ensure the modernistic processes cld [sic] be truly taken in on the senses, not just be abstractions;

'popular' as in Ives-- but unlike him in taking the well-loved kitsch -'O sole mio', 'Jerusalem', &tc-- as

workable pitch-material, not simlpy [sic] for its power of nostalgia & evocation.”14 This “well-loved

kitsch” is ingrained in the consciousness of many people, and it is used because of that connection even

if they can't identify the tune. This is the same reason why Charles Ives uses similar material as

quotations in much of his music, which is then used to make the listener feel nostalgic, yet Holloway

uses this familiarity to understand the musical processes of the music, something that will become

much more evident in the third movement.

At approximately fifteen minutes into this central movement, we reach a buildup of tension,

texture, and dynamics that will bring us to the ultimate climax of the entire work. This section builds,

as Holloway writes, “all the way towards a saturation of material interlocked and divided against itself.

Its resolution produces the movement’s, and the work’s, main climax.”15 For over a minute, spanning

pages 91-98 of the score, the texture has become so thick with polyphony and has become so dense,

14. Robin Holloway, “Re: Second Concerto for Orchestra Analysis.” 16 April, 2011. Personal Email.
15. Robin Holloway, liner notes for Second Concerto for Orchestra, by Robin Holloway, NMC D015M, 1993,
Compact Disc.
Southard 18

that there is no main melody or a clear foreground or background. Contributing to this texture is that

the orchestra is divided into two separate groups moving at different tempi and in different meters, and

the score calls for a “sub-conductor” to facilitate this. All of the previous material, including the

quotations, has been piled on top of each other and everything is simultaneously foreground and

background in a thick, confusion of tension. It does, however, lead directly into the climax, landing on

a fff tutti C#m triad with a B# and D # added. Most strikingly is that the added D# is in the first

trumpet, at the very top of its range, and its highest note in the entire work. This chord begins a

somewhat-tonal harmonic progression for full tutti orchestra, using tertian-based chords with several

added chromatic tones, mostly in the higher registers of the chord (Ex. 20).

Example 20

Interspersed between these orchestra outcries are repetitions of the “hammering” buildup of eight

anvils which we have already looked at from earlier on in this movement.

This climax then comes back to earth with help of the following cadenza. As this is a concerto,

so too must there be a cadenza, yet as this is a concerto for orchestra, the cadenza is not for a single

soloist, but instead for several different instruments. At rehearsal marker 67 on page 105, the entire

string section lays down a bed of notes, an extremely tall tertian chord that uses only the pitches of the

C-major scale (the “white notes” on a piano) from E1 all the way through G7 without any breaks (Ex.
Southard 19


Example 21

This chord diminuendos to a static level at piano while three separate and un-coordinated groups, or

streams, of instruments are added on top for the cadenza. These separate groups make this cadenza an

important moment in the piece by being the most polytonal and polytempo section of the entire work.

The first group of solo instruments enter, a piccolo and a glockenspiel, both these extremely high

instruments playing in 6/8:2/4 and at a prestissimo tempo of dotted-quarter equals 200+. The piccolo's

melody is a playful (marked “giocoso”) melody in Eb-major, while the glockenspiel plays around with

a four-note pitch collection, C#, E, G#, B (with as few C-naturals sprinkled in) which could be diatonic

to several different keys, including E-major and C#-minor. Soon after they begin, the next group

enters, led by a clarinet playing a “giocoso” tune in A-major, a harp repeatedly arpeggiating a C-minor

triad, and a xylophone with soft sticks playing a pentatonic collection of Ab-major (C, Db, Eb, G, Bb).

Like the previous group, these instruments are also in 6/8:2/4 meter, yet at a slower, yet still fast, tempo

of “Allegro Vivo” where the dotted-quarter note equals approximately 152. In addition, the piano

begins its own stream (perhaps it needs no other instruments in its group because it can create thicker

textures on its own, unlike most other orchestral instruments). This piano part is now an extended

quote of the Chopin Barcarolle. Also in 6/8, yet at a much slower tempo than the other streams (dotted-
Southard 20

quarter-note equals approximately 72), it begins in F#-minor playing similar material as with the

previous quotes from the beginning of the movement, but eventually finds its way to F#-major.

However, the material it is presenting never actually happens in those particular keys in the original

Chopin piece. It isn't until the end of the quote that the composer/listener is finally remembering the

piece as it actually is, as at measure 18 of the piano cadenza we reach F#-major, which corresponds to

last measures of the Chopin piece, and is quoted not exactly, but very closely, as can be seen by this

comparison between the end of the original Chopin (Ex. 22) and the quote (Ex. 23).

Example 22
Southard 21

Example 23

The piano stream is the last of the three streams to complete its cadenza, and does so in traditional

grand fashion as any romantic cadenza may, with a fast sweep of downward arpeggios the whole length

of the keyboard, as in the original Chopin. But, as the original crescendos to the bottom pitch, landing

on the tonic F#, the quote diminuendos and fades away on its way down, playing a wash of “black”

notes on top of the still sounding bed of “white” strings. The piano then ends its cadenza, not on the

tonic F# , but on the lowest note of the piano, an A natural, fitting into the reemerging bed of “white”

strings as the movement ends.

Southard 22

Movement III

The final movement can be thought of as a mirror image of the first, but also as the culmination

of the entire work. As Holloway writes,

It begins with the ideas of the first, restored to their original shapes, seen from afar and
rapidly coming to the fore as the middle movement evaporates. This finale presents the
same events as the first movement in (broadly speaking) the reverse order. But now the
formerly disconnected ideas are gradually shown to fit into each other. What had been
a scattering of little fragments is now one big unity. As it advances, the finale
incorporates material from the middle movement as well, and the snatches of tune that
have been relatively furtive so far become increasingly continuous and prominent.
Everything hitherto separate is connected up, every incomplete thing completed, every
identity kept reserved is now let out of the bag, and every relationship implicit until
now is hammered home.16

As he explained in his email to me, “in[the] 3rd [movement] everything is 'explained': joins made

instead of interruption—connexions [sic.] linear/melodic,textural/timbral, above all harmonic; & the

quotes shewn [sic]--HEARD-- to be seminal & germinal, rather than simply poetic/allusive.”17

The movement begins with the strings' “white” chord slowly disappearing as the original

motives from the first movement return in roughly backwards order. For example, just ten measures

into the final movement we once again hear our beginning three motives, A, B, and C, yet there order

of entry, including repetitions, is B-A-C-A (Ex. 24).

16. Ibid.
17. Robin Holloway, “Re: Second Concerto for Orchestra Analysis.” 16 April, 2011. Personal Email.
Southard 23

Example 24

While the whole movement displays this concept of previous material finally coming together

and making sense, looking at the entire movement would be outside the scope of this essay, so I will

focus my analysis on two specific passages and how they exemplify this concept. About halfway

through the movement, on page 130, we re-reach the C#-minor chord with an added B# and D#
Southard 24

“Climax” chord from the second movement. This dark chord is appregiated by the strings and

activated by shrill high trills in the upper woodwinds. What makes this chord downright sinister,

however, are the three trombones that intone the beginning of the chorus of “O Sole Mio” in parallel

augmented triads, ending on a C#-minor triad (Ex. 25, see Ex. 18 for original). A tune that once carried

the words that translate to “But I know sunshine more lovely still, From thy dear features its bright rays

thrill” has now been used for the darkest moment of this work, a total absence of sunshine!

Example 25

While it may be true that Holloway intended this irony, I believe his first intention was to use this

melody as musical material and make it make logical sense in this context, no matter what the extra-

musical implications might be. After a brief and exposed trumpet and trombone cadence in C#-major,

the mode then switches back to the C#-minor climax chord, along with the sinister augmented

trombones, yet now the music follows the same basic progression as the second movement climax that

was interspersed by the anvil hammerings: C#m-Bb-Ebm-F#7, all with many added tones as before.

Over the final three harmonies is now one of the lullaby motives in octaves in the strings (see Ex. 5),

repeated over each change of harmony, trying to find both its melody and harmonic resolution. In the

climax of movement two, the F#7 chord was followed by something resembling a D-major chord,

which is not a functional progression, yet here our F#7 reveals itself to be a dominant seventh chord
Southard 25

and resolves to a B-major triad, our tonic triad in B-major. Melodically, the lullaby motive resolves on

the tonic triad with another motive from the Chopin quote, the quarter, dotted-quarter, eighth rhythm

that ended the first and second quotations in movement two (see Ex. 8 and 9). These move from scale-

degree 4 to 3 to land on tonic (Ex. 26).

Example 26

Close to the end of the movement and the entire work, the tune “Jerusalem” comes back once

again, at rehearsal marker 84 on page 139. Here a complete statement of the melody is presented,

although altered in several ways. The first phrase is presented with altered rhythms in the cellos in C-

major doubled by the horns who hold and overlap each pitch. However, before it is completed, the

second phrase, in violas doubled by a trombone, begins still using the C major scale but transposed up a
Southard 26

fifth, beginning on scale degree 3 instead of 6. The cellos and horns then take up the 3rd phrase while

changing the key to Ab-major, yet again, before it can complete its phrase, the violas and trombone

start the next one. When the cellos and horns hit the pitch G, the violas and trombone do so as well,

and instead of that pitch functioning as a leading tone in Ab-major, it becomes the subdominant in their

D-minor phrase. This back-and-forth overlapping in different keys for different phrases continues, with

the fifth phrase in the cellos and horns in B-minor, yet the next phrase in the violas and trombone in F#-

major. The sixth phrase is only given by the cellos, but it is in D-major, while the seventh and

concluding phrase is taken up by the violas and first trumpet in the key of Bb-major. Example 27

shows the original “Jerusalem” melody, while Example 28 shows its use in the Holloway.

Example 27
Southard 27

Example 27

The unlike the song from which it is borrowing from, the music does not follow the dramatic arch of a

complete verse and cadence here, yet this use of the tune increases the tension and need for resolution

for its entire duration, a resolution that is then achieve in the following section.
Southard 28


Robin Holloway's Second Concerto for Orchestra is a modern day masterpiece. While the

overall structure is one of symmetry, where the outer movements balance each other around a central

movement, there simultaneously a sense of progression towards more coherence throughout. Holloway

describes this progression as if the outer movements as the two days coming before and after the night,

which is the central movement, “3rd mvt is day after night (2nd is dream-transformations of intake

from previous day in 1st; nightmares; gigantifications in slumber ;climax of erotic merge-&-seperation.

[sic])”18 During the course of the three movements (which are performed without breaks in between),

there is a continual process of bringing disparate musical material together in ways that work musically,

similar to the idea of unification of diverse musical styles in Frederic Rzewski's The People United Will

Never Be Defeated! written just three years before the Holloway. Holloway does this in such a way by

using familiar tunes that are ingrained in our collective subconscious, and we travel from confusion, to

surrealism, and finally to satisfaction.

18. Ibid.
Southard 29


Anderson, Julian. “An Introduction to Holloway's Music.” Boosey & Hawkes.
composerid=2703&ttype=INTRODUCTION&ttitle=In Focus (accessed April 14, 2011).

Bye, Antony. “Acts of Possession. Fogey or Trailblazer? Antony Bye Puts Robin Holloway into
Content.” The Musical Times 134, no. 1808 (Oct. 1993): 567-70.

Hewitt, Ivan. “Composer in Interview: Robin Holloway.” Tempo 57, no. 226 (Oct. 2003): 11-20, (accessed Feb. 20, 2011).

Holloway, Robin. <> “Re: Second Concerto for Orchestra Analysis.” 16 Apr. 2011.
Personal Email.

Holloway, Robin. “Robin Holloway.” University of Cambridge. (accessed April 27, 2011)

Holloway, Robin. Second Concerto for Orchestra. BBC Symphony Orchestra. Oliver Knussen. NMC
D015M. 1993. Compact Disc.

Holloway, Robin. Liner notes for Second Concerto for Orchestra, by Robin Holloway. NMC D015M.
1993. Compact Disc.

Holloway, Robin. Second Concerto for Orchestra. New York: Boosey & Hawkes, 1979.

Holloway, Robin. “Second Concerto for Orchestra, op.40.” Robin Holloway. (accessed Feb. 20,