Celebration, a Praeludium for wind, brass, percussion, harp and piano, was commissioned by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO) for its 150th anniversary. It was first performed by the RLPO, conducted by Libor Pešek. at Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, on 21 March 1991, at a Royal Gala Concert in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen.
The work is a celebration by way of displaying the virtuosity of the players for whom it was written, and therefore could be viewed as a sort of mini-concerto for orchestra (without strings). Despite only lasting around six minutes it highlights in turn the various sections of the ensemble. The form of the piece might be described as follows:
- Block 1: brass, timpani, percussion and piano
- Block 2: wind trios, harp and percussion
- Chorale: wind only
- Development of the music from Blocks 1 and 2
- Chorale: full ensemble with opening material returning
The opening fanfare-like material, announced by three spatially separated trumpets with tubular bells, is important. The music in this Block is exuberant. In Block 2, the wind sections enter in turn; flutes, clarinets, oboes and bassoons, with music that is scherzando-like on the whole. This leads directly into a simple chorale. Development of both blocks of music follows, often rhythmically highly-charged, before the chorale returns triumphantly together with the opening trumpet fanfares.
In five minutes it covers an enormous range of textures and colours, with piano, harp and percussion supplementing the wind, while providing a taut and satisfying shape.
Edward Greenfield, The Guardian, July 1991