Ian McDougall
Concertino, Devil or Angel?: for Trombone and Piano Accompaniment
tenor trombone and piano

Vancouver, BC, , Canada
Publisher: Cherry Classics Music
Date of Publication: 2015


This piece is dedicated to Gordon Wolfe, Principal trombone of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, who commissioned it for his CD Reflections (2015). Ian McDougall (b.1938) is a Canadian composer and trombonist. In his liner note for the CD, he explained that “the devilish reference in this work is to the interval of a tritone; the devil’s antagonist is surely an angel, so imagine one’s guardian angel on one shoulder and ‘Old Nick’ on the other, battling for your conscience, and you will essentially have what this three movement piece is all about.”

Devil or Angel is a lyrical jazz-inflected piece in legato style with tessitura lying in the mid to high register, and it’s a fun piece to play. There are some awkward intervals and tricky cross-rhythms to be negotiated; interest is maintained throughout. The trombone part is given in tenor and bass clefs; range is F-sharp–d-flat1. The piano part was written for a pianist who doesn’t have large hands; the widest chordal span is an octave.

There are three movements – I. Cherub vs Imp (5’40), II. Guardian (4’05) and III. Old Nick (5’40). In the first movement, the two protagonists battle it out in contrasted sections ranging from Adagio to Presto, leaving matters unresolved on a bi-tonal chord of G/G-flat. The central Adagio is sweet, ending on an unresolved quartal/bi-tonal cadence. The concluding Allegro takes us on a ride through some pretty wild chromatic and polytonal harmony to a completely ambiguous conclusion. It’s clear that this battle isn’t over, but fortunately, it seems that in this piece, Old Nick has been more mischievous than malevolent.

Reviewer: Keith Davies Jones
Review Published January 31, 2019