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A Cutting-Edge New Concerto for Next Season

1 Apr 2024

News Story

Peter Franks (Principal Trumpet) and Su-a Lee (Sub-Principal Cello)

We are delighted to announce that the Orchestra will be premiering a new Concerto for Saw and Waste Pipe early next year, by a composer whose name will be revealed at the new Season launch on 24 April.

Provisionally entitled Hydraulic Saw (after Leonardo da Vinci), the concerto is an SCO commission and will feature two Orchestra members as soloists, but not on their usual instruments. Su-a Lee and Peter Franks will instead play the musical saw and washing machine hose respectively.

“Using soloists from within the orchestra, both playing household objects, might look like the SCO is trying to cut costs, but that’s not it,” the mystery composer says. “When discussing future projects with SCO management, I expressed a wish to explore some unusual washes of musical colour. Hydraulic Saw spins together my fascination for unusual instrumentation and da Vinci's pioneering inventions - I’d been itching to write another concerto, and the decision to write for two unconventional instruments was automatic for me.”

For Su-a Lee, this means a welcome opportunity to introduce the musical saw to a wider audience. “I’ve been known to play the singing saw as an encore in solo recitals,” she says, “or when I’m wearing my other hat as an amateur magician at my annual Fringe show, when I saw my assistant in half during the finale. There is very little orchestral music written for the saw, so this should go wonderfully against the grain.”

Leonardo da Vinci's hydraulic saw, one of the inspirations for the Concerto for Saw and Waste Pipe (on display at the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology in Milan)

It’s an even rarer treat for Peter Franks. “There isn’t much repertoire for our main instruments, trumpet and cello, so I'm really looking forward to sharing the solo spot with Su-a. The great Dennis Brain played a Leopold Mozart concerto on the hosepipe at one of the Hoffnung concerts,” he says, “but as far as I know, that’s the closest anyone’s come to writing for a plastic washing machine pipe. Oh, and it’s actually the grey water pipe that gets the cleanest sound, in case anyone is interested.”

For the composer, the influence of Peter Maxwell Davies’ Strathclyde Concertos (written for the SCO from 1986 to 1996) looms large. “The solo trumpet part in the third concerto was written for Peter. Also, coincidentally Su-a had just joined the Orchestra around that time, and so she also played on the final three. So, this is very much a tribute to Max and the Orchestra.”

The composer concedes that it is an ambitious and challenging venture. “The concerto is a tried and tested orchestral form, but it is not as cut and dried as many people think - there’s definitely scope for mixing things up a bit, and to try to do something more cutting edge. I’m excited but a little nervous. This is a completely different spin on the concerto, one with teeth. I hope it all comes out in the wash.”

Hydraulic Saw (after Leonardo da Vinci) will receive its world premiere in early 2025. Look out for full details in the new Season brochure, to be published on 24 April.

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