Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

David Gompper


Concerto for Viola Section and Orchestra is a two-movement work lasting nineteen minutes. Its first movement in entitled Frenetic, and the second, Song and Finale, is made up of a slow and fast section. The concerto is scored for piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in B-flat, bass clarinet, two bassoons, two horns in F, two trumpets in C, tenor trombone, bass trombone, four percussion, a section of seven violists, violins 1, violins 2, violoncellos, and double basses.

Balance can be one of the main problems with writing a work for solo viola and orchestra. While the viola’s timbre makes it an enticing instrument, there is a restriction that keeps it from easily projecting over an orchestra. Composers have devised several methods for solving the problem. For example, Paul Hindemith was careful not to over orchestrate in his concerto entitled Der Schwanendreher. By limiting the number of cellos and basses to four and three respectively, and by omitting violins and other violas altogether, Hindemith thinned out and removed timbres that might obstruct the viola.

In my concerto for a section of violas, I also consider orchestration as a solution to the problems of balance and projection. However, I focus on the soloists in contrast to the orchestra. By composing for seven violas, I utilize the thickness of sound achieved through chorusing. Using any combination of the violas, it becomes easier for the listener to perceive the viola timbre. Furthermore, this use of multiple violas allows for more complex counterpoint in solo passages, something a single instrument is not able to manage on its own. This piece is not a concerto grosso in any sense. The soloists do not perform as a smaller chamber ensemble extending from the larger orchestra. Instead, the soloists are treated as a single entity. They act as one unit, using seven performers to do the work of one soloist.


concerto, multiple violas, orchestra, viola choir, violas, viola section


viii, 78 pages


Copyright © 2017 Paul Alan Price-Brenner

Included in

Music Commons