Flute Concerto

Oslo Philharmonic
Conductor: Simon Streatfeild
Flute: Per Oien

Robert Aitken (flutist) talks to Ken Winters
about Peter Paul Koprowski’s Flute Concerto
(“Mostly Music”, CBC Radio)

Robert Aitken (flutist) talks to Ken Winters about Peter Paul Koprowski’s Flute Concerto
(“Mostly Music”, CBC Radio)



Conductor: Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Flute: Robert Aitken

Publisher: CBC Records
SKU: SMCD 5206

Redemption - concerti by Peter Paul Koprowski
“All three concertos are gripping, large-scale, full of virtuoso demands for the players and an emotional pay-off for the audience. The 1993 Accordion Concerto, the most unusual, pays homage to Koprowski’s Slavic roots. A dark strain of East European soulfulness permeates all three works.
For visceral excitement, it is hard to beat the 1996 Viola Concerto, yet the piece is full of melancholy lyricism and a poetic display of the viola’s dusky warmth. The fullest spiritual range is in the 1982 Flute Concerto, which has a Prokofieff-like scherzo and a limpid flute line set against a turbulent, colorful orchestra.”
American Record Guide, September 2001
Duration: 27 minutes
Written: 1982
Premiered: June 23, 1983
by Oslo Philharmonic
Conductor: Simon Streatfeild
Flute: Per Oien
Oslo Konserthus
Norwigan Radio
Oslo, Norway
  • 3 Flutes (third doubles on Piccolo)
  • 3 Oboes (third doubles on English Horn)
  • 3 Clarinets in Bb (second doubles on Eb and Bass Clarinet, third doubles on Bass Clarinet)
  • 3 Bassoons (third doubles on Contrabassoon)
  • 3 Trumpets in Bb
  • 4 Horns in F
  • 2 Trombones (second with F trigger)
  • Bass Trombone
  • Tuba
  • Timpani
  • Percussion (3 players): Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Marimba, Vibraphone, 4 Tom-toms, 4 Temple blocks, Sizzle Cymbal, Wood block, 2 Suspended Cymbals, deep Gong, Tam-tam, Bass Drum, Triangle, Snare Drum, pair of Cymbals in hand
  • Piano (doubles on Celesta)
  • Strings (16, 14, 12, 10, 8 preferred. At least two Contrabasses with low C extension required)
  1. Adagio. Allegro. Prestissimo
  2. Lento
  3. Presto
It was late in 1979 when Per Oien approached me with the proposition that I write a Flute Concerto for him. At this point he already had other concerti written for him, and he was at the height of his career. Since most of the concerti in the flute repertoire were scored for a string orchestra or a small orchestra with a solo flute, he stipulated that he did not want another one of a similar kind. He requested that I write for flute solo with the full forces of a large symphony orchestra – specifically, for the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. Furthermore, he suggested that I feature several instruments from within the orchestra, especially the trombone. In this way he tried to tie my work to Nielsen’s concerto, which he wished to see on the same CD as mine.
When I hesitated about the project (chiefly for reasons of balance), he said that he believed that I was capable of doing it, and doing it well. With the financial assistance from the Canada Council secured shortly afterwards, I realized that I was embarking on a difficult and ambitious journey.
The sound and the structure of the composition came to me immediately. I began sketching instantly. The process, which was long and extremely labour intensive, took a lot out of me. Laying out the score, for example, on a 24 staff paper was problematic in itself at times and required compromises, while writing in ink was time consuming and irritating. I was late with the parts and the premiere performance had to be postponed. Ultimately, it took place in the Oslo Konserthus in June 1983, where it was recorded by the Norwegian Radio. Per Oien was the soloist and the Oslo Philharmonic was conducted by Simon Streatfeild. Over the next few years the concerto was performed frequently in Canada, in Norway, and in Poland. It was subsequently recorded by Robert Aitken and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under Jukka-Pekka Saraste.
Conceptually, the work adheres to my fundamental philosophical belief that the modern XX-century techniques are not mutually exclusive, and that extended tonality is also not mutually exclusive with any of them (as was believed at the time). I held this conviction decades earlier, while still in Poland, and this philosophy was an expression of my rebellion against the realities of the day. I was not prepared to live by the doctrines of the times, many of which dictated what not to do or how the composition ought to sound.
Furthermore, in light of the upcoming centenary of Stravinsky and Szymanowski, I further resolved to include a modest “reference” to their work. The end result saw a large work in three movements (played without an interval), of approximately 27 minutes in duration. The score saw a full complement of strings, a large percussion section, a full brass section, Piano, Celeste, and triple winds including doublings on Piccolo, English Horn, Bass Clarinets and an Eb clarinet, as well as Contrabassoon. Many of the orchestral instruments were asked to share the spotlight with the Flute Solo in the often discreet chamber settings.
The solo flute part exemplifies the capabilities of Per Oien – his big, rich sound, his intellect and musicianship, and his enormous virtuosity. The sound of the Oslo Philharmonic, as evidenced on many of their recordings, has served as a model for the many orchestral features of this composition.
The work takes a listener through an array of moods ranging from lyrical to dramatic, from tragic to absurdly humorous, from richly sonorous to extremely fast and furious. The illusions of tonality evident throughout assume new dimensions when combined with selected modern techniques and methods of organization of pitch, rhythm, and texture. In effect, a 19th century form becomes a suitable vehicle for a modern day composition.
Today, I see the Flute Concerto as a composition of consequence possessing a strong intellectual fabric with equally convincing emotional content. It remains one of my personal favorites. It seems to continue to live up to the proclamation that Per Oien made after its premiere as “the most substantial Flute Concerto since Carl Nielsen’s.”

“I believe this Flute Concerto to be the most substantial one since Carl Nielson.”

– Per Oien, Oslo Philharmonic

“outstanding colors, drama and architecture as well as an absolute control of the symphony orchestra as a vehicle.”

– Witold Lutoslawski, Composer

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