Walter Leigh: Concertino for Harpsichord & Strings


After receiving tutelage from Harold Darke and Paul Hindemith during his time in education, Walter Leigh (1905-1942) wrote a number of works for a range of different ensembles and soloists. Still the most popular of his works today, Leigh’s Concertino for Harpsichord and Strings is a concise, French-inspired concertante work.


The Music

Composed in 1934, Concertino for Harpsichord and Strings was premiered by pianist Elizabeth Poston. Set into three contrasting movements, the music takes the listener on a wonderful journey.


Movement I – Allegro

Opening with the sparkling harpsichord sitting on top of the orchestral texture, the dialogue between the two parties is lively and in good jest. Leigh’s use of melody fragments played in unison creates cohesive voicing between the soloist and orchestra. The main theme is quite stately, with the timbre of the harpsichord also playing into this. The opening statement returns in various forms throughout the movement, and after a jarring harpsichord cadenza which is full of excitement, the opening theme closes this first movement. 


Movement II – Andante

The Sarabande-like second movement is opening with a solo harpsichord theme. This theme is then repeated by the orchestra as the soloist moves on to a new accompaniment. The theme is developed during the second half of this movement, with the cellos and violins carrying it through to end the movement gracefully.


Movement III – Allegro vivace

The bounding fun of the finale movement derives from the bouncy 6/8 time signature that passes through cross-rhythms. The high energy seeps through the soloist and the orchestra to create some really exciting call and response dialogue. Lots of short themes make up this finale, with themes from all three movements making a return by the end of the movement. The quick and intricate solo part soars above the orchestra, leading to a short cadenza for the soloist. As the music picks up pace in the final stretch, Leigh cleverly resolves the music for a thrilling finish. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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