• John McCabe
  • Desert II: Horizon (1981)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Harrogate International Festival with funds from Yorkshire Arts

  • pictpt.2Ctpt.flg.hn.4tbn.tba
  • Brass Band (1987)
  • 13 min

Programme Note

While paying visits to the United States and the Middle East for performances of his music, McCabe became fascinated with the desert scenery he saw round him - the vast unbroken spaces, the scuttling lizards, the brief but dramatic flowering of brightly coloured plants, the limitless, seemingly desolate expanses which in reality teemed with life - so much so that he determined to try to evoke his impressions musically. The result is a series of works called DESERT. Horizon is the second of these, and in it he vividly captures the constantly altering shapes, and effects of changing light and shade: perhaps it is not too fanciful to imagine mirages, a green oasis or even a distant caravan on the skyline.

It is, of course, much more than mere atmospheric tone painting though. Its single movement falls into several distinct sections, covering a wide range of dynamics, tempi and moods. There are important roles for piccolo trumpet, for flugelhorn and a virtuosic tuba part. Individual instruments combine themselves into groups within the larger ensemble in a display of McCabe's colouring, scoring and resourceful part-writing at its most deft.
© 1984 Robert Harding