Piccolo Concerto

For solo piccolo, strings, harp, percussion and timpani

Commissioned by Erica Peel

World premiere December 8-15 by the Philadelphia Orchestra and Erica Peel, with Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting on the Digital Stage.

Score and parts available from Theodore Presser Company.

Watch a preview. 

Program Notes

Every woodwind has a unique musical personality. Born from a military flute in the middle ages, the piccolo, the highest instrument in the orchestra, is commonly associated with a piercing sound that can penetrate through an entire mighty orchestra.

Due to its very high register, the piccolo’s solo repertoire is quite limited.

When Regina Helcher Yost first approached me about commissioning a piece for piccolo and piano, the challenge seemed daunting. How was I supposed to come up with an effective recital piece for this extreme little instrument?

Each time I write for a new instrument, I strive to connect with what makes that particular instrument unique. What kind of music will make the instrument sparkle and come to life? What kind of material would be most satisfying to play?

For me, the key to unlocking the potential and the beauty of the piccolo is to explore its haunting and expressive lower register and to embrace its singing middle range. I only use the high register when structurally necessary, and try not to stay there for very long. Besides its singing qualities, the piccolo is also remarkably agile and capable of exciting virtuosity.

My Piccolo Concerto was born out of two consortium/crowd-sourcing commissions. It began as a Sonata for Piccolo and Piano, commissioned by Regina Helcher Yost, who spearheaded a group of 23 distinguished performers who co-commissioned the sonata, and premiered the piece in 2018.

Erica Peel, piccoloist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and I became friends in 2019. Erica has given me great inspiration throughout our numerous collaborations. In 2020, she asked if I would compose a concerto that she would premiere at the 2020 National Flute Convention’s Gala Concerto concert. I suggested orchestrating the sonata, and we agreed that the piece would lend itself particularly well to an orchestrated and expanded concerto version.

When Erica commissioned me to transform the sonata into a concerto, we agreed that it would make most sense to use a string orchestra plus harp and percussion. A full orchestra would likely overshadow the piccolo in terms of balance, whereas a string orchestra would act as the perfect foil to the piccolos metallic brilliance. Erica had many great ideas for how to push the piccolo to new heights in the last movement. She even figured out how to channel her inner Jethro Tull through singing and playing simultaneously during the rock-and-roll influenced last movement. We had many happy moments of brainstorming together throughout the orchestration process.

Erica, like Regina, put together a fundraising campaign to help support my work on this project. Unfortunately, like most live events around the world, the 2020 convention was canceled because of Covid-19. But as some doors temporarily closed, others happily opened, and the Philadelphia Orchestra scheduled the premiere of my concerto for their Digital Stage series.

Commissioning is invaluable to the continuation of our art. Without Regina Helcher Yost’s initiative in putting together the sonata consortium, and without Erica Peel envisioning the concerto version, and without the generous support of the piccolo community and friends, I would not have discovered this music inside myself. I am endlessly grateful to everyone who supported me in creating this work.

List of sonata co-commissioners:
Carole Bean
Jenny Cline
Zart Dombourian-Eby Laura Dwyer
Cynthia Ellis
Christine Erlander Beard Gabriel Goñi Dondi Jennifer Gunn
Christine Gustafson
Lois Bliss Herbine Kimberly Hickey Gudrun Hinze
Sarah Jackson
Mindy Kaufman
Lindsay Leach-Sparks Barbara Ogar
Nan Raphael
Laurie Sokoloff
Pamela Stahel
Wendy Stern
Joan Voorhees
Darla Wilmot

List of concerto contributors:

Kenneth Hutchins
Gudrun Hinze
Paul Demers
Christine Gustafson
Eugenia Cline
Valerie Coleman-Page
Sue Parente
Thomas and Lisa Leise
Clint and Judy Steele
Daniel Rosenblum
Nicole Chamberlain
Jeremy Benner
Lauren Rogers
Natasha Loomis
Julia Choi
Allen Harberg Jr
Chelsea Davis
Renae Block
Lora Tchekoratova
Robin Nilon
Hannah Harberg
Joanna Bassett
Nate Pham
Tom Meany
Luke Pfeil
Jason Sudduth
Tara Rozanski
David Cramer
Molly Aitken
Sam Brooks

©2021 Copyright - Amanda Harberg