Commissioned by the London Festival Orchestra

  • 1111/1000/str(
  • 10 min

Programme Note

Composers have not seemed particularly inclined to write short orchestral pieces in recent times. Funding bodies have focused on the commissioning of large-scale works, while modern compositional techniques often seem best suited to extended dialectic. Yet overtures, small tone poems and suites of miniatures have yielded some of the most exciting music in the standard repertory. And we can ill afford to neglect those genres now. For this reason I was especially pleased when the London Festival Orchestra said they wanted me to write them a short piece.

While I was composing it, various small orchestral works were running through the back of my mind and playing a part in helping to focus my ideas, particularly from the English early twentieth century repertory
with which I feel such a deep sympathy; works by composers like Butterworth, Holst, and Vaughan Williams. Not that my music is in any way folkloristic. But I wanted to extend that tradition in modern terms and to write a piece in which the material was at least as important as developments and variations of it. Something which often doesn't happen in contemporary music where an intricate dialectic carries the structural weight and compensates for rather discreet basic material.

My title stems form a notion that has always fascinated me: that music lies just beneath the surface of a landscape. Waiting to reveal itself if only we look, listen and contemplate. For the rest. All that needs to be known is that there are three main ideas: a song-like theme on the oboe which emerges from the atmospheric opening, a lifting dance subject mainly of wind over syncopated strings, and a high-lying song on violins which is first heard sailing above a dense texture of wind scales.

These ideas return in various orders and guises, reaching an expressive peak when dance end song are eventually harnessed in a sort of procession. The piece is scored for flute, oboe. Clarinet, horn. Bassoon and small string section and lasts about ten minutes.

(A. P. )