• Cheryl Frances-Hoad
  • Memoria (2002)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • ob(ca)/pf/vn.va.vc
  • 17 min

Programme Note

Memoria is dedicated to Sidney “Jock” Sutcliffe (1918-2001), one of the finest oboists of the post-war era and, in his later years, an inspirational ‘cello supervisor at the Yehudi Menuhin School, with whom I spent some of the happiest hours of music-making.

The work is based on Bach’s ‘Cello Suite No.2 in D minor, and in particular its Prelude: in discussion with Jock’s three daughters, I discovered that it was one of his favourite pieces, and that he had practiced it privately for some fifty years before feeling ready to play it in public (he would joke that Casals had been hasty in performing the work after a “mere” ten years’ reparation). Using the Bach Suite seemed doubly appropriate, as Jock had spent many an hour helping me with the piece (resulting in one of the handful of performances that I was truly happy with).

The two movements of Memoria were conceived as a Prelude and Fugue, and it is the Prelude that is based most faithfully on the Bach. There was a deliberate intention to avoid literal quotation: rather, the skeletal harmonic and structural form of the three-minute Bach Prelude is magnified so as to provide the framework of my nine-minute Prelude. This framework is then “ornamented” with original material, hopefully resulting in a movement that sounds nothing like the Bach but at the same time is deeply indebted to it.

The fugue subject of the second movement is then in turn based on my Prelude. The aim was to
completely saturate the music with fugal principles: so, for example, each root of the main harmonic sections adds up to false fugal entry (e.g. the first seven notes of the subject), the first “exposition” sections contains within it a complete “mini-fugue” and, in another section, the subject is “verticalised” so as to create a kind of chordal fugue. Along with “macro” and “micro” fugues running simultaneously at different speeds, rhythmic fugues and canons also occur at various points.

It is not until near the end, however, that the subject is heard in its pure form, as I wanted to hide as well as I could the fact that the movement was a fugue at all (just as the original Bach is concealed in the first movement).

Hopefully, Memoria can stand on its own, while at the same time being closely linked to the ‘cello suite that gave Jock so much pleasure.

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