Reliquary

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Nacht und Nebel

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Rumours

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Prahlerei

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Reliquary

Written for and performed by Aurel Marc (oboe) and Octavia Marc (piano) at a concert marking the centenary of Constanti Silvestri at the Romanian Cultural Institute, 4th. October 2013.


Nocturne with Cloudscape

The title refers to an engraving by Doré (who I think of as the illustrator of Coleridge's Ancient Mariner) called Folktales - A Voyage to the Moon. I don't know the particular story Doré meant, so wrote the following (in a suitably Gothic idiom) for the programme note: A ship was once becalmed some leagues from the Azores. For lack of water and nourishment, a certain mariner, watching on the night of a full moon from the crow’s nest wandered in his wits. Bewitched by that orb, he supposed that he saw lakes and rivers and a city with a fair harbour and that they stood close enough to make landfall there. In his fancy the ship seemed to float clear of the sea, and rising with a strange creaking of planks and straining of ropes as if before a following wind, to sail thence. Thereafter the boat came safe to its proper port with all its crew. But the sailor never recovered his right mind and for the rest of his days believed that he was a sojourner with the citizens of the moon. The sea looks quite choppy in the engraving, and much of the piece is shadowy and mysterious, but I imagine the moment at which the ship rises out of the water to be as noisy and exciting as a rocket lifting off a launchpad, although once the ship reaches space, it floats once again with surreal serenity. The Performers here include Ken Aiso (Solo Violin) Danny Driver (Solo Piano) The Rivoli Quartet and Mihail Cretu, Double Bass.



A Letter By Starlight

Written for the ‘Going Home’ Festival in March 2010, held the South London Gallery by Lontano, conducted by Odaline de la Martinez. ‘A Letter By Starlight’ was inspired by 'A Song to No Music' by Joseph Brodsky, particularly the following lines (where I  take the reference to an ‘alto’ for the purposes of the piece, to mean a Viola!):          ...the world has limits,
                                                guarded if not by some cherubic corps,
                                                then by quite stratospheric,
                                                ardent emotion…
                                                What matters is not what life has,
                                                but just one’s faith in what should be there...
                                                Point your finger in the dark;
                                                There like an alto left to harden
                                                In highest pitch, should be a star;
                                                And if it isn’t up there, pardon…
                                                …the mind, diminished badly by our parting,
                                                simply tries to soar.

Nacht und Nebel

A work for accordion duo. The performers here are Terhi Sjöblom and Marija Kandić. The title of this piece, Nacht und Nebel is a quotation from Wagner’s Das Rheingold, and relates to the spell cast by the magic Tarnhelm,  a helmet forged by the dwarf Alberich in Nibelheim, which renders the wearer invisible. The motif is quoted extensively in the last part of the piece.  The phrase was commandeered by Hitler as the title of his counter-resistance offensive in occupied territories. Many in the French Resistance movement in particular, disappeared thanks to this Nacht und Nebel campaign. This was the link to the 'French' theme of the festival in Tintea, Romania, where the work was premiered in July 2012, for I was reading about the life and exploits of French Resistance hero Jean Moulin as I was writing it. The snapping gesture at the end is like that of a trap shutting...

Poems From the Late Tang No. 3

3 Rumours- sung by Claire Boothe, recorded at RCM, conductor Clement Power - the third song in a cycle of poems adapted by me from Meng Chiao and Tu Fu

Rumours that you lodge in a mountain temple
In Hang-chou, or in Yueh-chou for sure,
Wind in the dust prolongs our day of parting,
Yangtse and Han have wasted my clear autumn.
My body stands near trees where gibbons scream,
But my spirit whirls by the towering waters sea-serpents breathe.
Let me go down next year with the spring torrents
And search for you to the end of the white clouds in the East


Prahlerei for Orchestra

[From the prgramme note] The composer’s cover drawing (See Info - more stuff) relates to the title ‘Prahlerei’ – German for ‘strutting’, ‘swagger’, ‘braggadocio’. The music was partly inspired by the ludicrous uniforms which Kaiser Wilhelm himself designed for his officers, and by old film footage of the Austrian Army, with its batons, its buttons and braid, its waving plumes and its goose-step – a step which, as still executed by more recent armies with whom it is still in favour, looks, dare one say, even funky. Certain parts of this piece, like the cello solo, suggest the less laughable consequences of such militaristic quixotry.



Concerto for Twelve Players ‘...plus fort que le Destin’

The instrumentation of Concerto for Twelve is that of Enescu's Chamber Symphony Op. 33. The subtitle is a phrase lifted from Enescu's opera 'Oedipe', in which the sphinx's riddle takes the form 'Nomme quelqu'un ou nomme quelque chose qui soit plus grand que le Destin!' - to which Oedipe replies 'L'homme! L'homme est plus fort que le Destin!' (The melody is quoted from bar 329, in the bassoon, in the run up to the 3rd movement.) As befits the ‘Concerto’ title, the work features solos passages for each of the players, some demanding considerable virtuosity. In another Enescuvian, or at least Romanian touch, the final section of this Concerto at times resembles a Briul or Brâul - that is, a Romanian 'belt' dance.


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