Program Note- Tommy Fowler “Rappezzatura Barocco”

I really should have posted the notes to Tommy’s new work before the premiere last week, but better late than never. Hopefully their appearance here helps him snag some more performances with other orchestras

Rappezzatura Barocco  (c10m)
Tommy Fowler (b1948)

Commissioned by the Kelvin Ensemble to mark its 15th anniversary. 
Dedicated to Paul Middleton, founder member and conductor of the Kelvin Ensemble.

The dedication to Paul marks the Kelvin Ensemble concert in February 1992 when he conducted a piece by the then first year B.Mus. mature student Tommy Fowler!

The last orchestral piece of mine performed at Glasgow University was a bassoon concerto (1996) which I described at the time as my revenge on Corelli after seemingly interminable harmony exercises.  It is fitting that for this piece I return to the same composer for inspiration.  Arcangelo Corelli’s trio sonatas fascinated me when I met them for the first time at GU.  His style is adventurous yet pristine and my study score of the Joachim edition of the twelve sonatas Opus 1-4 is well thumbed.  This piece takes materials from the F major sonatas in Opus 1 and 2 and after displaying and processing them, stitches them together to form a patchwork quilt.  The orchestration is standard apart from the introduction of a harpsichord into the texture.  The music opens quietly and slowly “with graceful majesty” featuring the lower strings and solo winds.  As the harpsichord becomes more busy and the volume builds the full strings emerge ebbing and flowing “with some intensity”.  The winds and the harpsichord begin to break into the rhythm with a series of quintuplet phrases before the tempo suddenly doubles.  This section follows a strict pattern of simultaneous increasing and decreasing odd and even numbered rhythmic cells (9-2-7-4-5-6-3-8) marked by sharp chords on the brass and harpsichord.  Over that layer there are selected parts of the musical materials as well as some contrapuntal rhythmic gestures the whole being marked to be played “with restrained excitement”.  After some suggestions of a triplet rhythm, the horns begin a gigue-like section but the strings decide to straighten out this rhythm and eventually this leads to a fast, gradual build up towards the end.  Ten bars at a slow tempo marked “Splendid” precedes a brief headlong rush “with undue haste” to an abrupt ending.



Tommy Fowler holds a Ph.D. in composition from Glasgow University, is regularly commissioned and performed and his work covers, orchestral, choral, ensemble and solo instruments as well as music for the theatre. His pieces have been performed by the RSNO, the SCO, the BBC SSO, NYCoS, Ensemble Bash, Paragon Ensemble, John Kitchen, Cappella Nova and many others.  Originally from Fraserburgh, he was a journalist for 20 years before taking a career change into music and moving to Glasgow.  Among a variety of projects  since then, he has written music for silent film, collaborated with Edinburgh-based Palestinian poet Ghazzi Hussain and written a piece for four percussionists with no instruments!  He is soon to embark on a theatre-based project to create a score for bicycles.

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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