• 2222/2210/timp.perc/str
  • soprano
  • 18 min

Programme Note

'Words in Winter' is a dramatic Cantata for soprano and orchestra in two sections, based on my own poems. It received its first performance on 29 October 1987 in Reykjavik, Iceland, with Jane Manning and the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, with myself conducting. The Scottish premiere took place in the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh on 21 April 1988, with Jane Manning and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, also conducted by myself.

The vision of a lonely figure, placed in a vast bleak and wintry landscape, reflecting in words and song upon the enigma, grandeur and infinite beauty of nature, and man’s place in the world, inspired this composition.

The poems form the centre, from which everything grows, the words dictating the mood and shape of the vocal line, which emerges again and again from the dense austere harmonics of the orchestra. The voice ‘represents’ and comments upon the individual: the orchestra on the other hand, ‘represents’ the forces of nature, the world, and at times takes on the role of the ‘choir’, as in a Greek drama.

'Words in Winter' starts on a unison E, which grows from nothing to a sharp short climax, leading to a long introduction, the soprano singing the first words of the poem in a melismatic fashion, against a quiet orchestral background. The music becomes gradually more and more rhythmic, and sure of its direction, moving relentlessly forward, and reaching a powerful sonorous ending.

The second section is more complex in form, and meditative in character; but it gradually gathers momentum, and reaches the main climax of the whole work, just before the short lyrical and reflective ending. This leads back to the tonal centre of E, linking the closing bars to the beginning of the whole work.

© Haflidi Hallgrímsson