Commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Tapiola Sinfonietta

  • 1+pic.2(ca)2.2(cbn)/2200/str
  • 17 min

Programme Note

Winter Song is a 17-minute continuous movement for a small orchestra consisting of 12 winds and a minimum of 24 strings.

In composing this music, I challenged myself to write for an orchestral group in which every player is a soloist, something which proved complicated to do. The string sections divide into numerous parts, and the wind players all have their own intricate lines to perform, forming a chain of melody throughout.

Structurally, the piece is in two parts, both based on continuously evolving melodies. The first of these can be heard initially played by the oboes, about a minute in from the start. The second, just over half way through, is hinted at by pizzicato strings and glacial clarinets, but soon warms into a broad tune passed from strings to winds. An interlude leads to a big coda with a throbbing, buzzing bass.

Emotionally, the music was inspired by the idea of walking through the difficult days of winter, and the idea that simply keeping going, making some kind of forward motion, may lead to better times.

Artistically, I never forgot that the music was being written for two orchestras in Scotland and Finland. Thinking about the Scottish element brought the Scottish Chamber Orchestra itself to mind, an orchestra I’ve happily worked with over a very long time. The Finnish dimension inevitably invoked the inspiration of Sibelius. Here I was particularly thinking of his many musical references to nature in the margins of his Kalevala-based compositions; and the elegance and concision of the Seventh Symphony.

Winter Song was commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Tapiola Sinfonietta. It was first performed by the SCO, conducted by Oliver Knussen, in Glasgow on 14 December 2007.

JW September 07


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