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Orchestral

Piano Concerto no.1
The Darkness of Ages - poem for large orchestra
This is a song for you alone - Romanza for violin and strings
Child's Play.... - scherzo for chamber orchestra
Scherzo Serioso - scherzo for chamber orchestra
Piano Concerto no.2
Tu Sospiri?
The Rose of Battle
Double Concerto for horn and orchestra


THESE ARE NOT PUBLIC DOMAIN WORKS. ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED. PRINTED COPIES ARE FOR EVALUATION PURPOSES ONLY 


Piano Concerto no.1 - 2002/3 - rev. 2006

dur. 29mins
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(2 piano)
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Piano Concerto awarded 3rd prize in 1st International Uuno Klami Composition Competition... click here...

(At this moment in time I am unable to place my recording of this work online - I hope that this position might change - please contact me for details)

I. Con fuoco   II. Romanza   III. Volante

This work was inspired by a visit to the mountains of northern Spain during the summer of 2002. The composition took place based on the sketches written literally 'in the field' over the next six months, being completed just into 2003.

The piece owes much to the 'romantic' piano concerto ideal, with relatively straightforward, traditional formal patterns for each movement. The first, lasting 12 minutes, contrasts energetic rhythmic music with tender reflective contrasts. The Romanza opens statically, but with high emotion barely suppressed. This boils over as the movement develops, until an unrestrained cadenza of some length bursts out, before an exhausted calm returns. The whirlwind finale features glissandi and moto perpetuo ideas prominently. As with all present music there is much shared material and harmonic and melodic ideas.

The work was given its first two performances by Teppo Koivisto and the Kymi Sinfonietta under Juha Nikkola in Kouvola and Kotka in Finland. The second of these was broadcast by Finnish Radio 1.

Scoring: 2 Flutes (1 doubles picc), 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns, Trumpet, Trombone, Tuba, 2 Perc*, Harp, Solo Piano, Strings**

* 1 perc version is also available.
** Chamber forces were envisaged, but a larger string section could equally be used.

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The Darkness of Ages - Poem for symphony orchestra - 2001/3 - rev. 2009

The Darkness of Ages

dur. 12mins
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mp3
(computer generated)

This single movement piece is the first in a projected set of 'tone poems'. It was written from autumn 2001 to spring 2003 and is cast in four sections, with the first and third developing similar material, based around the notes A-G-E-Eflat (=Es=S), hence the title. ...Or rather it was a neat fit with a line borrowed from Janacek's essays, describing a well in his home village of Hukváldy.

A solo violin points the way towards a proclivity for high, passionate writing. There is much tumult, both rhythmically and melodically, but the language is nevertheless predominantly lyrical. In the middle of this emotional storm a shorter calmer moment is allowed. This in turn is balanced by a coda, which, having drawn the orchestra together into a full unison, proceeds to disintegrate away.

This score was heavily revised in August 2009, with much re-orchestration. The earlier version with a slightly smaller orchestra is withdrawn.

Scoring: 2 Flutes (1 doubles picc), 2 Oboes, Cor Anglais, 2 Clarinets, Bass Clarinet, 2 Bassoons, Contrabassoon, 4 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Tuba, 2 Perc, 2 Harps*, Strings

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This is a song for you alone - Romanza for violin and strings - 2003/2012

dur. 17mins
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1st mvt
2nd mvt

I. Con Fuoco   II. Semplice

Completed in November 2003, but partially recomposed in 2012, this is a two movement work for solo violin with strings, in the manner of a Romanza rather than a concerto.

The title, from a Stefan George poem, reflects the inspiration for the piece; the infamously passionate love by ("intimate") letter of Leos Janacek for Kamilla Stosslova. The first movement is stormy, and highly charged, but with a calm centre; the second serene and song-like. The violinist is very much 'protagonist', and its 'song' is not easily conveyed, with the ongoing struggle between it and orchestra only occasionally broken.

Scoring: Solo violin, Strings (originally written for chamber orchestra forces I think the piece could work as 'quasi solo string ensemble' up to full symphonic strings

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Child's Play.... - Scherzo for chamber orchestra - 2004

dur. 5mins
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mp3
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An orchestration of my miniature 'scherzo-concerto' for octet.

Inspired by everyday breaktime views of children at play at my school, and also by the Breugel 'catalogue' picture on the same subject, this Beethovenian scherzo it is full of sudden shifts (of dynamics and metre), with humour innocent, and ironic; such that with the exception of a brief respite in the central section it is difficult to establish 'ground level' for other than a moment.

The piece perhaps owes most to my former manner of writing in its jokiness and use of 'banal cliché'.

Scoring: 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns. 2 Trumpets, Strings

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Scherzo Serioso - - Scherzo for chamber orchestra - 2005

dur. 10mins
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Scherzo Serioso mixes a lumpy, reluctant humour, in a measured tread with glimpses of a more lyrical world 'just beyond'. Cast in a single span, the writing is akin to the first movement of the Piano Concerto, from which indeed it was seeded.

Scoring: Flute, Piccolo, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns, 2 Trumpets, Trombone, Tuba, Timpani, Tubular bells, Xylophon, Harp, Strings

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Piano Concerto no.2 - 2005/6

piano concerto

dur. 25mins
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1st mvt
2nd mvt

I. Fleeting, delicate   II. Lento molto

I was asked to write this concerto by Ivana Marija Vidovic for performance with the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra under Zlatan Srzic. It was composed between July 2005 and August 2006. However, despite my expectations, and the many indications to the contrary, the performance never took place.

Though the scoring is leaner than the 1st Concerto, with just double wind, horns and strings, and the generally more straightforward nature of the music, the piano writing is nevertheless predmoninantly much fuller.

Cast in two parts of roughly equal length the piece is less formally 'obvious' than its predecessor. The 1st movement opens in sunny, fleeting manner (owing something perhaps to Sibelius's 6th Symphony, though this subconcious connection only became apparent well into the composition). However, it also displays a certain muscularity in the piano part, and indeed the orchestral textures, as the movement develops. After dancing, romantic and scherzando episodes there is a return of sorts to the opening material. A final impassioned 'cadenza' is capped by a brief orchestral 'flitting off' into the distance.

The 2nd movement is set in a low register, with dark, velvety, rich sonorous tones dominating. It is highly charged 'Mitternacht' music, based around that commonoest of clichés the tonic-to-dominant horn call used in so much classical and romantic period music. The movement combines 'romanza form' with an inclusive deference to a finale. A slow building of both tempo and intensity leads first to a tempestuous passage and then to an almost cataclysmic climax. Only at the last moment does the fullness disipate, but even then reluctantly, as if the business has not been finally dealt with.

Scoring: 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns, Solo Piano, Strings

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Tu Sospiri? - 2009/10

dur. 13-14mins - Score not available until after première April 2012

This work was commissioned by Daniel Raiskin and the Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie for première in Koblenz in April 2012. A link with "my Mozart“ was requested, but I had no wish to write a "Mozartiana". This piece uses two points of departure: one biographical, the other musical.

Mozart's conjectured relationship with, or at least feelings towards, Nancy Storace, his first Susanna, had its farewell flowering in the concert aria "Ch'io mi scordi di te" K.505 (a tellingly chosen text?). This meeting of "souls" provided an emotional stimulus for the piece, as well as its lyrics lending the title. Parting, loss and separation are often themes in my work.

A fragment from the "trials" scene of Die Zauberflöte provided the simple ideas of a "turn" and a scale, revealed as the source in the centre of the piece, appropriately on a solo flute. The turn is an ornament already well embedded into my own musical semantics.

Though I love the many faces of Mozart, chief among them are his "instrumental colourism", and that of him as "first of the romantics" (D minor and C minor Piano Concerti, Requiem, Don Giovanni, Andantino from Posthorn Serenade, slow movement of the Clarinet Concerto etc.). These are reflected in my approach to this commission.

Tu Sospiri?, is a thirteen minute piece, often brooding, but including somewhat eclectic elements of dance, vibrancy, spacious warmth and intense emotion. There is juxtaposition of 'classical' transparency of scoring and readily grasped material, with a richer romantic rhetoric. I intended to make chamber orchestra forces sound "large". The piece has a concertante/concerto for orchestra feel, with solos for everyone - a "players' piece".

The vibrant tutti opening, a cri de coeur strongly centred on the turn, gives way to an extended, predominantly darker and turbulent main section. In time this dissipates into a haven of sensual tranquility, with extended violin, horn and finally (magic!) flute solos. A light dance-like reawakening proceeds to a somewhat martial climax (...the Commandatore?), emerging triumphant in a glowing, ecstatic restatement of the opening idea. The music dissolves into a brief recapitulation of the central slow "dream" before ending somewhat enigmatically - like the candle snuffed out, or the closing of the story book.

The score and recording will be available on this website in May 2012, after the première has been given. Any interest in this work for performances after that date or requests for an evaluation score can be addressed to the composer (at any time).

Scoring: 2 Flutes (one doubles piccolo), 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns, 2 Trumpets, Timpani, Strings

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The Rose of Battle - 2011

dur. 12mins
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In the course of sketching some ideas for my horn concerto, one somehow took on an independent life of its own and grew at quite a pace. It was all finished in a week, a feat never before matched, and I suspect not to be repeated. The piece has a serious, even austere side, but with soaring passionate writing also; there are bells along with a good deal of plaintive cor anglais. The whole thing forms a straightforward fast-slow-fast-slow pattern.

Finding a title took almost as long as writing the piece, but a chance connection on the internet led me to Yeats's "The Rose of Battle" and this was a perfect match both emotionally and in "unspecific narrative", even incorporating some further imagery (bells!). Strangely, I had been in Sligo, Yeats's home town, only a month or so before writing this piece for a performance of my second violin and piano duo. (Perhaps his other "Rose" poems might conjure further pieces, possibly even related or to be performed together... For the future...)

Image: The Sick Rose no.5 by Azadeh Razaghdoost seemed an excellent visual reflection of my work and appears on its title page by kind permission of the artist (visit the artist's website for other beautiful works in this series. You can click on image above for larger version, though this is still in reduced resolution to limit use of the painting's reproduction).

Scoring: 2 Flutes (one doubles piccolo), Oboe, Cor Anglais, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns, 2 Trumpets, Trombone, Timpani, 2 Percussion, Strings


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Double Concerto for Horn and Orchestra - 2011

dur. c24mins
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I. Molto Moderato II. Cantilena III. Jaegers Lied

This work was written at the request of my good friend Ondřej Vrabec. He asked for something that could show off both of his wonderful skills in one piece, as solo horn player and virtuoso conductor. Thus, with tongue slightly in cheek, the title "Double Concerto" materialised. It could equally be thought a combination of solo concerto and "concerto for orchestra", alla Bartok, Holloway, Lutosławski etc..

Initially some ideas suggested themselves from "Das Knaben Wunderhorn". These were not specific to individual poems (I would not dare to take on Brahms, Mahler et al...!). Rather they reflect recurring themes: the hunter, magic, the quest, and the interface between innocence and darker forces. However, the work is not programmatic, following a relatively straightforward, traditional three movement form.

The first opens with a "toy box" of tinkling percussion, as if to say, "Once upon a time....". Quickly, however, it emerges that, in the best traditions of fairy stories, this will involve bigger forces, mystery, passion, darkness and drama, though equally there is joy, humour and dancing! The second movement is a heartfelt cantilena, scored for a much reduced orchestra. It is perhaps in the manner of Shostakovich's 2nd Piano Concerto, or Poulenc's Two-Piano Concerto, paying hommage to the horn's place as that most talismanic of romantic instruments. The final movement is a hunt, what else!? However, this one involves many diversions, from the amiable to the intense. Towards the end, in a dramatic turn, the quarry is spotted; the solo horn is joined by its orchestral counterparts in an "ecstacy of whooping", followed by a swift chase and the final deed.

Video of the première:



Scoring: 2 Flutes (one doubles piccolo), 2 Oboes, Cor Anglais, 2 Clarinets (one doubles bass clarinet), 2 Bassoons, Contrabassoon, 4 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, 2 Percussion, Harp, Strings

(I must briefly state here that my piece does not glorify hunting in any way; it merely reflects a resonant, traditional association of solo horn works. Whilst I have no issue whatever with hunting for food, I am vehemently opposed to doing so with dogs for amusement, no matter what spurious and contradictory grounds are often used to excuse it in the UK. This is barbaric and should be consigned to the dustbin of history along with bear baiting and cock fighting.)

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