On Friday, January 8th, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducted by Jaap van Zweden, gave the world premiere of Martijn Padding’s ‘Softly Bouncing’. It is a one-part work written for a relatively small orchestra comparable to that of a somewhat larger symphony from the first Viennese School. A striking role is given to the two percussionists who play an arsenal of small Thai gongs that lie on foam rubber and colour the music softly…
In addition, they stand out because of their playing on melodicas that open the work with chorale-like fragments. They form the basis of the composition and keep coming back in different forms such as echo, imitation or canon.
The title Softly Bouncing refers to the bouncing of chords from one orchestral group to another, creating a labyrinth of soft pulsating harmonies, melodic formulas and chords echoing. The work is restrained and melancholic and in a sense rather atypical for the composer Martijn Padding, who likes to make himself heard in an exuberant, vital and light-hearted way.
The explanation for this is that the composer noticed that so many new works for symphony orchestra are by definition firm in dynamics and gestures. Nothing to the detriment of the quality of those new works, but there is a lot of noise around us in 2020. On the streets but also in the concert hall. Padding ( in general not too bad to make a lot of noise himself) therefore decided to take a softer approach. (After Softly Bouncing he wrote This is a loud World, a concerto for clavichord and packed orchestra).
The strings play the work mostly with dampers and some even with ‘practice mutes’. These are even softer than the normal sourdines and produce a mysterious silvery soft sound. For the same reason, the brass players combine different dampers in different combinations. Moreover, the main hall of the Concertgebouw is one of the most beautiful halls in the world, mainly because soft sounds and transparent music sound so beautiful there.
Softly Bouncing at the Donemus Catalogue