• Peter Maxwell Davies
  • Litany - for a Ruined Chapel between Sheep and Shore (1999)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Programme Note

Litany was written for John Wallace earlier this year [1999]. The title refers to the ruined medieval chapel on the Holms of Ire, Sanday, next to my new home there. I imagined the music being played in the ruin, open to the skies, in the vast stillness of that haunted land and seascape.

Like the Trumpet Concerto of 1988 and the Quintet for trumpet and strings which is its immediate predecessor, Litany owes its existence to the imaginative virtuosity of John Wallace. As with the Quintet, though, the virtuosity is lightly worn – at least when one hears Wallace’s performance – and evolves from a feeling of space; in both cases, the surrounding stillness is that of the composer’s new home on the island of Sanday, and here he imagines Wallace trumpeting to the air, the sea and a few nearby sheep outside a nearby ruined chapel. The sense of calm which is the work’s beginning, middle and end is more spacious, less intense than in the Quintet, but the bursts of dancing brilliance in the outer movements are equally sudden and mercurial in sequence, dynamics and metre – as unpredictable as the environment to which the soloist is so palpably exposed.

© David Nice

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