• Roxanna Panufnik
  • Powers & Dominions (2001)
    (Concertino for Harp and Orchestra)

  • Peters Edition Limited (World)
  • hp + 2(I:pic).0.0+2bb-cl.2(II:cbn)/0+f-hn.0+bb-tpt.0.0/vib/hp/str
  • Harp
  • 15 min

Programme Note

This concertino for harp and orchestra is an analogy – between harps and their commonly associated players: angels. These two things are often portrayed in a mainly ethereal and ‘light’ way but both can have great power and awesomeness. For example, the harp is often heard (if at all in larger orchestras) in a tinkley, textural way with not enough of its melodic, rhythmic and darker sounds exploited. Angels are often depicted in a rather sugary manner and we forget their capabilities to exert enormous force and energy. Hence the title Powers & Dominions (two names of the middle hierarchy of angels) in a literal and lateral description of this piece.

It is in two ‘parts’ – not ‘movements’ – because the darker and more moody Part II derives much of its material from the brighter and more joyous Part I. It starts with arrivals/landings of angels around the orchestra (the only literal programmatic depiction). Another source of inspiration for this part are several lines of Edward Taylor’s (1646–1729) reworking of Psalm 24:

God is gone up with triumphant shout:
The Lord with sounding Trumpet’s melodies:
Sing Praise, sing Praises out,
And hear Heart-cramping notes of melody
Mixing their Music, making ev’ry string
More to enravish as they this tune sing.

The whole piece is based on a harmonic progression which is only heard in its undiluted form at the very end, and a mode created out of the third harmony. I have kept the orchestration fairly light because of the balance challenges presented by the harp – to this end, I have also used a second harp within the orchestra, partly to act as a ghost in backing up the soloist in louder passages, but also to aid my more bitonal moments (difficult to convey on a single harp because of its non-chromaticisity). In much of the work, the soloist, orchestral harp and vibraphone act in a concertante manner.

My thanks go to the inspirational Sister Raphael at Stanbrook Abbey, to Peter Smith of Autumn in Malvern Festival for initiating this commission, and to Nick Turnbull of Music at Oxford for helping make it happen and introducing me to Edward Taylor’s verse.

Roxanna Panufnik