Tippett - Concerto for Double String Orchestra: movement I

Notes on the Tippett piece

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  • Created by: Annie
  • Created on: 17-03-11 18:14

Concerto for Double String Orchestra: movement I -


  • This is a characteristic work of Tippett's early period
  • It reflects Tippett's interest in English madrigals (evident in freely combining independant rhythmic patterns) and Neoclassicism

Rhythm and Metre

  • Notated in 8/8 with very occasional changes to 6/8 and 4/8
  • Use of quavers as the basic unit permits additive rhythms
  • Syncopation is frequent throughout the piece
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Concerto for Double String Orchestra: movement I -


  • Opening motif is characterised by the repeated step movement before broadening out by leaps of 4ths and 3rds
  • Melody extended by sequence in bar 8
  • Melody here is also inverted in lower parts
  • Prominant broken chord motif in bass at bar 112


  •  Non-functional
  • Harmonic progressions are difficult to spot due to the contrapuntal texture
  • Counterpoint leads to dissonance
  • Phrygian cadence at bars 20-21
  • Common chord progression at bars 39-40
  • Ambiguous progression from bar 119 with augmented/whole tone structures heard in passing 
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Concerto for Double String Orchestra: movement I -

(Harmony continued)

  • Final modal cadence of G to A, or tonic preceded by flattened seventh


  • On A
  • Non-functional with modal elements
  • Bars 1-4 of melody make use of the pentatonic scale, but accidentals in other parts make it more difficult to be certain which mode predominates
  • Tippett shifts the music to various tonal areas, e.g.

         - G (bars 39-67) - E (bar 68) - C# (bar 86) - Ab (bar 107) - A (bar 129) -

  • The movement closes with an open 5th chord
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Concerto for Double String Orchestra: movement I -


  • The regular appearance of the opening motif is reminiscent of the ritornello of the Baroque concerto grosso
  • The overall structure is sonata form
  • There are two clearly defined subjects (bar 1, bar 39) linked by a transition (bar 21)
  • The development (bar 68) passes through more remote tonal areas (see previous card)
  • The opening material reappears in a recapitulation (bar 129) with the second subject in the home tonality of A as opposed to the original G
  • There is also an extended coda (bar 194)



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Concerto for Double String Orchestra: movement I -


  • This concerto plays two equal forces off agaisnt each other rather than a single soloist or group of soloists against a larger accompanying group
  • Tippett frequently uses two part counterpoint as in the main theme, but each part is doubled at three octaves
  • He also uses occasional homophony and monophony as well as antiphony
  • In the more lyrical sections, the accompaniment sometimes takes the form of broken chords
  • There are no unconventional playing techniques but notice the 'sul tasto' (bow over the fingerboard) direction at bar 107
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