View From Olympus - Concerto for Solo Percussion, Solo Piano, and Orchestra (2000)
Official video playlist
Commissioned by percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, View From Olympus has become one of my landmark works. This double concerto takes listeners on a journey through the world of Greek percussion styles and playing techniques. The first movement features an adapted transcription of improvised Greek violin music (by Stathis Koukoularis), the second movement is a tribute to my two children, and the third movement is a wild depiction of the legendary Mænads celebrating their god Dionysos with song, music and dance.
The world premiere was given by Dame Evelyn Glennie (perc), Philip Smith (piano), and the Halle Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder, Manchester, UK, 26 July 2002.
Commissioner - Evelyn Glennie (with funding from Victoria University of Wellington)
I. The Furies
II. To Yelasto Paithi
III. Dance of the Mænads
IV. Fragment (encore for 2 soloists)
The Furies were avenging spirits of retributive justice whose task was to punish crimes outside the reach of human justice. Their names were Alecto, Megaera and Tisiphone. This movement contains an adapted transcription of a fragment of improvised playing by one of my favourite Greek violinists, Stathis Koukoularis (it appears as a solo for violin about two minutes into the movement).
To Yelasto Paithi (The Smiling Child) is the closest I’ve come to expressing — in a way not possible with the spoken or written word — the feelings inspired by my precious children, Emanuel and Zoe. In this movement is also caught the summer I spent working on the concerto at my parents’ house just outside the village of Nea Michaniona – a house perched on a cliff which looks down on the Aegean and up to Mount Olympus.
Draped in the skins of fawns, crowned with wreaths of ivy and carrying the thyrsos — a staff wound round with ivy leaves and topped with a pine cone — the Maenads roamed the mountains and woods, seeking to assimilate the potency of the beasts that dwelled there and celebrating their god Dionysos with song, music and dance. The human spirit demands Dionysiac ecstasy; to those who accept it, the experience offers spiritual power. For those who repress the natural force within themselves, or refuse it to others, it is transformed into destruction, both of the innocent and the guilty. When possessed by Dionysos, the Maenads became savage and brutal. They plunged into a frenzied dance, obtaining an intoxicating high and a mystical ecstasy that gave them unknown powers, making them the match of the bravest hero.
Forming an optional encore to the concerto is Fragment (percussion version), for vibraphone and piano.
2 Flutes (Flute 2 doubling piccolo)
2 Clarinets in Bb (Clarinet 1 doubling clarinet in Eb)
4 Horns in F
3 Trumpets in Bb
1 Bass Trombone
Timpani (4 drums)
Percussion 1 (1 or 2 players): triangle, snare drum, mark tree, glockenspiel, tubular bells, marimba (4.3-octave instrument), cow bell, vibraphone, cymbals (splash, medium crash, china crash), bass drum, tambourine (mounted and played with sticks), 3 high tom toms (different pitches)
Percussion 2 (1 or 2 players): glockenspiel, triangle, tubular bells, cymbals (splash, medium crash, china crash), marimba (4.3-octave instrument), bass drum, tam-tam (large), finger cymbals (approximate pitch D6), vibraphone
Solo Percussion: vibraphone, marimba (5-octave instrument), simtak, dulcimer (santouri), bass steel drums, wind chimes (2 or 3 sets), bell tree, mark tree, triangle, finger cymbals, drum station (4 octobans, 4 tom toms, cymbals (trash, splash, medium crash, china crash and a cluster of smallest-possible splash cymbals), hi-hat)
Solo Piano (should be amplified)
Score and Recordings
Music Hire Set
Solo Percussion part (download)
Solo Piano part (download)
Solo Composite part - solo piano and solo percussion (download)
Teacher’s Score for School’s
Learning Guide for Teacher’s and Students
Student Workbook Scores