List of Works

Bongo Divertimento, Op. 35

Instrumentation: orchestra (detailed below)

Composed: 1965, revised 1993

Duration: about 12 min.

Publication Information: 19--? (66 p. ms. score + parts; large folio)

Score available from: Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music at Free Library of Philadelphia.

Recording available from: CRI, American Masters: Gene Gutchë

Program Note:

The bongos and their related instruments, timbales and conga, are popularly accepted everywhere by dance bands. The Bongo Divertimento is a departure from the typical Latin American concept of these instruments. In its rhythmic syntax, the Divertimento borrows heavily from neoclassic and post-romantic literature, but it assumes a new concept. To effect the many possible sonorities and rhythmic devices, the percussionist uses his hands, elbows, and a special set of wooden sticks. The piece is divided into two outer sections: a Rondo-Entrada, which is not quite an overture, and a closing Ritornello, a reprise of the Rondo-Entrada. The inner sections are programmatic.
Perpetuo sets a quiet pace
Pettifoggery is a type of ‘con game’, a moment of dishonest jazz interrupted by sobering strains in the orchestra
Bluebottle Fly is a musical duel between soloist and pest
Pasticcio is an imitation. A muted trumpet sounds a neoclassic theme against which the timbales strum a bygone rhythm.
Magpie presents two birds chattering noisily in the cool of a summer morning while their neighbors in the forest protest.
The audience always enjoys the stage antics of the soloist, particularly during Bluebottle Fly, in which, from the beginning, the percussionist conveys that he is bedeviled by an imaginary insect. The stages of his discomfort increase from annoyance to irritation to fury. Whenever his hands are busy on one drum, his head is turned to the other. During the extended tremolo, a vindictive smile begins to appear on his face, and when he strikes the Conga a violent blow at the final bar, it is a complete surprise to the audience. Now, the imaginary bluebottle fly lies dead on the Conga...

...and he whisks it off with a wire brush.

1 Solo Percussion
1 Flute
1 Oboe
1 Clarinet
1 Bassoon (Contrabassoon)
1 Horn in F
1 Trumpet


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