Orpheus in the Afterworld: Concerto for Flute and Chamber Orchestra (1994)

Solo flute, 2 Horns in F, 1 Bassoon, Strings

1. Summer rain
2. Solitude
3. Bacchanal



Orpheus in the Afterworld was composed on the heels of a song entitled Summer Rain based on the aftermath of the familiar legend of Orpheus. The song imagines Orpheus frozen in the moment of losing his love, Euridice, conjuring up a storm to spell out his rage and anguish. The first stanza

Summer rain,
shrouded sky,
with a drone
that dims the eye,
in a stunning moment, now the world's undone.
If I turn once more, will you still be gone?


provided the primary substance for the first movement of the concerto, both musically and emotionally: this is a work of abrupt contrasts between aggressive, rhythmic passages and longer, lyrical lines.

The first three notes of the piece (Eb, D, C#) are produced by singing and playing the flute simultaneously; they form both the primary motivic material and referential key centers for the work as a whole.

The second movement treats the Baroque sarabande to postmodern juxtapositions: a brief ritornello in the strings alternates with 1] an arioso flute melody over a ground bass in the muted horns, 2] an increasingly dissonant trio section, 3] a solo cadenza, and 4] a return to the original ground bass combined with material from the trio. The result is a slightly off-balance synthesis of old and new.

The third movement combines the aggressive rhythms of the first movement with the ground bass of the second in a furious bacchanal that demands percussive residual tones and stratospheric playing from the flutist.

Orpheus in the Afterworld was commissioned and premiered by Elizabeth Holler Ransom and the Carolina Chamber Symphony.



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Lawrence Dillon
Lawrence Dillon's Flute Concerto is truly an outstanding work. The piece successfully maintained an extremely coherent and powerful dramatic flow. Dillon's unique compositional voice clearly makes itself heard. [A] passionate and often unpredictable work.
- Charlotte Observer


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