Little Suite for Five Players
2006. Duration 11' approx.
Commissioned by the Britten Sinfonia.
First performance - 2006, Jubliee Hall, Snape
Oboe, doubling English Horn
Clarinet, doubling Bass Clarinet
The concept behind this piece is a simple one: the bulk of the melodious material gets ‘used up’ too soon, and then the rest of the piece results in the instruments struggling to regain that lost melodic aspect in the piece.
Nocturne, the first movement, is a lyrical and gentle opener: the harmonies are mainly based on diatonic chords that overlap each other, with a very subtle jazz inflection that occasionally appears but never becomes too obtrusive. The melodies and harmonies are all based on the opening few bars, which in turn form the foundation of the following movements.
The second movement, Dance, employs a kind of disjointed ‘hocket’ style of writing. At first the piano is pitted against the other four instruments, but they briefly team up in various combinations before breaking away again. The music here is deliberately nervous and hiccups its way through its short duration. Short melodic fragments – heavily developed from the Nocturne – come to the fore, in the piano and bass clarinet, and attempt to change the direction of the music but to no avail; the movement eventually just fizzles out.
The third movement is a Chorale. This time the melody is formed from the top notes of each chord; in a sense the melody is trapped, sounding only with the accompanying harmony notes, never breaking away into the similar freedom of the lines found in the first movement. The instruments have now given up trying to present melodic material and they close the piece somewhat ambiguously.