• Simon Bainbridge
  • Three Pieces for Chamber Orchestra (1998)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Brunel Ensemble

  • 2(pic)2(ca)2(bcl)2(cbn)/2220/3perc/hp.pf/str
  • 20 min

Programme Note

A large number of my recent pieces have been concerned with creating large "single-span" one movement continuities. However, it was with the composition of my song cycles Ad Ora Incerta (1995) and the Four Primo Levi Settings (1996) that I became involved with the genre of the orchestral and instrumental "song". I decided in my new work to extend this idea into the "abstract" world of the orchestral piece.

The first piece began life (some years back) as a tribute to the late Janet Craxton and was originally scored for cor anglais and piano. It was later transformed into an ensemble piece for solo viola, flute, two clarinets and harp and it was this version that provided me with an instrumental fabric on which to expand the new material into its final orchestral reincarnation. It is based entirely on a tiny fragment from "Der Abschied", the final movement of Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde.

The second piece is an effervescent and shimmering orchestral scherzo, a kaleidoscopic, "helter-skelter" journey, propelled by two antiphonally separated percussionists who articulate the music with a constant "pulsing configuration" on a vast array of "metal, wood and skin" instruments.

In the final piece I have set up a dark and sombre "orchestral chorale" which slowly and imperceptibly travels through a process of "superimposed" polyrhythmic pulse shadows, continuously shifting the tempi and changing the harmonic density of the texture. The piece is funereal in character (suggested by an almost inaudible, but incessant "third" on the bass drum) and is a musical memorial to the far too large number of dear friends and colleagues who died during 1997.

Programme note © Simon Bainbridge