• Sadie Harrison
  • An Unexpected Light (2003)
    (Concerto for solo violin with string orchestra and percussion)

  • vn + perc/str(
  • Violin
  • 15 min

Programme Note

An Unexpected Light explores the folk musics from four countries, Lithuania, Georgia, Khojent (now Russian Ferghana) and Armenia, and is intended as a comment on the gradual transformation of musical cultures that once thrived in all their variety in the early Twentieth Century.

The concerto opens with a harvesting song, Pute Vejas, from South Aukstaitiya, a plaintive melody which recurs only on the solo violin, linking the two main transcriptions of the work. The first of these is a transparent, dreamlike version of a ghostly song from Khojent called Soki Sini Khorosh, the second is a lively and highly virtuosic, whirling Lezghinka dance from Tiflis in Georgia. The work closes with echoes of these musics overlaid by an Armenian song from Alexandropol - Alagyaz Badzr sar E (Alagyaz is a high mountain) and A-a, a-a, Mazulyte, a beautiful lullaby, also from South Aukstaitiya.

Surrounding these folk musics are passages of aggressive modernist writing, dark and rhythmic where every instrument is treated as a soloist. The conjunction of apparently unrelated musical styles creates the structure of the concerto and acts as a metaphor for the struggle between cultures.

The score is prefaced with a lyrical text by the Russian poetess Marina Tsvetaeva, taken from her ‘Poem of the End’. It expresses the pain of loss whilst rejoicing in the beauty of a song which shines despite the darkness. This provides a perfect analogy for my own work, giving the concerto its title, An Unexpected Light. The piece has a dual dedication, to Rusne Mataityte, Donatas Katkus and the Saint Christopher Chamber Orchestra who premiered the work, and to my daughter, Freya. (SH)

..as stars rise often and go out again..
so many eyes have risen and died out
in front of these eyes of mine.

and yet no such song have
I heard in the darkness of night before..
here, on the ribs of the singer.

[The work received its first performace in the City Hall, Vilnius, Lithuania on 20 February 2004, performed by Rusne Mataityte (vln) Donatus Katkus (cond) and the St. Christopherus Chamber Orchestra of Vilnius. The work was commissioned as part of the Orchestra’s 20th Anniversary Gala concert and was broadcast on Lithuanian Television and Radio on 26 February 2004.
The work was released in Spring 2007 alongside other related chamber works by Sadie Harrison.]