concerto                              for  bass trombone & orchestra


Orchestration: btbn solo - 2fl(2doubl.pic), 2ob, 2Acl, 2bn, 4Fhn, 2tp, 1tbn, timp 1perc, pno, str.

Duration ca. 15’

The bass trombone isn’t particularly what comes to mind when talking about a solo concerto. How does one find a balance between soloist and orchestra for one of the loudest instruments?  How do you compose soaring melodies over a gentle orchestral accompaniment for a seemingly untamed beast?  Actually, after many attempts in vain over a period of six months, I came to realize how the rough edges of the bass trombone (as much as its endlessly polished beauty, as soloist Scott MacInnes had showed on several of our meetings), were perhaps exactly the right angle for this Concerto. 

A common theme in my work is man vs. nature, or in this particular case: soloist vs orchestra.  In this Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra the theme is open to interpretation.  Could it be the Romantic heroism of the individual fighting the forces of a sublime and untamed wilderness?  Or, on the other hand, could it mean how we live in peace and harmony with the dramatic landscape of the high mountains, the deep valleys and the clear lakes right outside of the comfort of our urban lives?  Perhaps nature is rather the vast introspective still life of our innermost being.  Man vs. his own nature: making his way through the wilderness of his expectation, memory and paranoia.  The bass trombone shows its individuality in virtuosic, cadenza-like melodies that are absorbed in an aura of static or arpeggiated harmonies in the vast orchestral landscape.  A slow chorale plays an important role throughout the Concerto, and is first presented in the woodwind at the opening of the work.

The concerto for bass trombone and orchestra was commissioned by the Vancouver Island Symphony Orchestra and its principal bass trombonist Scott MacInnes as part of the Legacy Project, where five Canadian composers write new concertos for principal players of the VIS.

As the medium of bass-trombone concerto is highly unconventional, I had to work closely with the soloist to create as arresting and virtuosic a concerto as possible. I have played a little trombone myself in a grey past, and I am still very much drawn to the instrument, especially the sonic extension of the lower range. Other than my earlier ensemble work Silk Execution, in which I explored combinations of tenor trombones with bass, and even contrabass trombone, I have never really written a solo work for bass trombone before.

Edward Top, 2016

Edward’s music at Donemus

Painting by Wendy Chong of Edward playing the trombone