2-, 4-, and 6-Mallet
The Concerto No. 1 in D Minor was completed in August 2003. This concerto was composed for marimbist Brenton Dunnington and was Taylor's first work for a solo mallet percussion instrument. Taylor's concerto displays confident youth as the composer ambitiously recalls the Romanticism of the past. The work is a large-scale undertaking for the soloist. Taylor has truly constructed a solo part of transcendental technique and virtuosity. The concerto is tangible and tuneful, visually captivating and memorable from the first encounter.
The first movement employs late 19th-century harmony blended with Taylor's personal aesthetics. The full and rich orchestration is most evident here. The movement also displays the endurance and facility of the soloist. The opening fanfare and romantic theme form the basis for shaping the movement. Taylor thoroughly develops the theme in a romantically expanded sonata form. The solo cadenza (with improvisational intent) emerges from the end of the development and drives on to explore the theme. It demands intricate, complete command of the marimba and fearless composure from the soloist to accomplish the aggressively fluctuating tempi, the broad dynamic spectrum, and perilous octave descents. After a brief adagio, the first movement reaches an exhilarating orchestral conclusion.
The slow second movement, still rooted in Romanticism, slips in and out of 20th-century harmonies. The movement is a tale of love and passion. Titled Adagio, the movement, opening in C major, is monothematic but for a brief recapitulation of the first movement's main theme. The movement's poignant melody is carried by each of the oboe, clarinet, and flute solos with marimba. There is a tender, recurring duo between slo marimba and harp followed by a dramtic, climactic chorale where the soloist employs six-mallet technique. The movement culminates in a vivid new statement of the movement's main melody and fades off into the distance.
A thematic transformation develops several stages further in the third movement. The Finale is a hero's tale of battle, danger, love, and triumph. Each section evokes a different account on the journey. Taylor reemphasizes the D minor tonality of the opening movement. The third movement bursts into the exhilarating and vigorous first subject, which features a thrilling rhythmic motif and interchange between the soloist and orchestra. The tale moves through a central lyrical episode in place of a development section. Again, earlier material is recalled. As the final vivace builds to a climax, the soloist unleashes fiery virtuosity with the orchestra. The majestic recapitulation, now in D major, surveys all of the Finale's opening material concluded by the coda in a brilliant presto and fortissimo.