Commissioned by the London Sinfonietta

  • 1(pic)11(Ebcl)1/1110/pf/str(
  • 20 min

Programme Note


Venus Fly Trap was commissioned by the London Sinfonietta with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain. The first performance, conducted by Elgar Howarth, took place on 11 March 1980 at St John's, Smith Square, London .

For some time my daughter, Rosalind, has wanted me to write a piece called "Forty-Four Daisies" (after the decoration on a much-loved, long since defunct pair of trousers belonging to her). On being told that such a title would be a little too pretty and innocuous faithfully
to describe the present piece, she immediately produced the alternative, "Forty-Four Venus' Fly Traps ". Thus, after some economic pruning, this title was adopted, as much for family as for musical reasons. Appropriately, perhaps, Venus Fly Trap is dedicated to my wife, Janet, as a sixth wedding anniversary present.

The work, which runs without a break, falls into three sections - fast, slow, fast. The accumulated momentum of the first section is eventually checked by cadenzas, gradually descending in pitch, for the woodwind, brass and piano. These cadenzas quell the musical activity and form a link with the middle section, whose principal theme is announced by the viola. At length, the pace slows down further, the intensity builds up and is finally released in a brief scherzando section. Its energy spent, the music regains its earlier slow tempo and mood of tranquillity.

The final section moves at a brisk pace. The steady pulse however is threatened, first by the exuberance of the trombone and then by anarchic interruptions from high woodwind and piano. They only succeed in impeding the flow of the movement briefly, however,
before a short accelerating coda carried the work to its energetic conclusion.

October 1979