Philip Glass’ Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra, composed in 2000 and transcribed for wind ensemble by Mark Lortz in 2004, is a significant addition to the repertoire of large-scale works for timpani. The work is rhythmically galvanizing, sonically alluring, and features virtuoso cadenzas for both soloists. Symphony No 4 ‘In the Shadow of No Towers’ is Mohammed Fairouz’s first major work for wind ensemble, and its inspiration is the provocative comic book by Art Spiegelman, written shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Spiegelman himself has commented: “I’m moved by [this] scary, somber, and seriously silly symphony…I’m honored that the composer found an echo in my work that allowed him to strike a responsive chord and express his own complex responses to post 9/11 America. He emerges from the rubble with a very tony piece of high-brow cartoon music.”
This is not such a bizarre cross-over as one might imagine for in the 18th century the great Irish musician Turlough O’Carolan, a blind harpist, met the Italian musician Geminiani in Dublin, and through him encountered the music of, yes, guess who, Antonio Vivaldi. So here we have a case of substituting Irish instruments for baroque ones, using baroque instruments to accompany Irish themes, by creating dialogues between Celtic and baroque instruments, or by letting all the musicians improvise. One moment we appear to be listening to a ‘straight’ baroque concerto, then all of a sudden the conventional string continuo/ripieno of the baroque ensemble (Le Orfanelle della Pieta) gives way to celtic musicians playing a jig or reel on anything from a Irish bouzouki to a fiddle. The baroque group consists of three each of first and second violins, one viola, two cellos, a bass and harpsichord while the Irish musicians play Irish fiddle, an Irish flute (like a baroque flute), tin and low whistles, Uileann pipes, Irish bouzouki, mandolins, bodhran, bones, and the Celtic harp (played here with metal strings to resemble its harpsichord counterpart in the other group).