Ten images for string quartet based on André Bergeron's lithographs for Germaine Guèvremont's French-Canadian classic, Le Survenant. 1. ragged earth (terre déguenillée)
2. a single cloud reddened (un seul nuage rougeoyait)
3. lake and sky black with birds (le firmament en est noir)
4. wreathing mists (des brouillards morts)
5. signs in the sun (des signes dans le soleil)
6. the weather is white (le temps est blanc)
7. winter gives way (l'hiver tirait donc au reste)
8. overcast with rain (le temps se rembrunit)
9. floods of May (les grandes mers de Mai)
10. into darkness (il se perdit dans la nuit noire)
First performance: Cavaleri String Quartet, Presteigne Festival, August 25, 2014
Commissioned by Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts Limited with generous funding from the Colwinston Charitable Trust.
The Duo was written in 1981 in response to a request from violist David Sills. It is the only piece of mine without a title having something to do with nature although natural imagery underlies much of the writing. The timbres of the viola and oboe are similar in many respects and I became fascinated by the idea of a single line being shaped by two instruments. At the opening, the viola "courts" the oboe, encouraging its moves and framing its melodies. A short viola cadenza leads from this reflective dialog to the pairing of the central section, after which an octave unison passage ushers in the fanfare-like conclusion. – HT
Performed here by Alun Darbyshire, oboe; Matthew Jones, viola. (Audio excerpt is the beginning.)
First Watch was composed in March 2002 in response to a commission from the Friends of the Albany City Hall Carillon, Inc. with support from Ancient Temple Lodge #14 F. & A. M. The Albany carillon is a four octave concert carillon which consists of forty-nine bells installed in 1927 by John Taylor Bellfounders of Loughborough, England. First Watch was first performed by carilloneur Charles Semowich, September 15 2002, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the dedication of the Albany City Hall carillon.
Albany, the capital of New York State, is located at the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers. It has a long history as a port, with deep-water access south to the Atlantic Ocean and trading routes north to Canada via the Champlain Canal and west to the Great Lakes via the Erie Canal. From the bell tower of the Albany City Hall carillon, one can look out over the Hudson River. It is the overwhelming sense of Albany as a canal, river, and sea port which inspired the composition, First Watch.
At sea, the first watch takes place from 8 PM to midnight. A bell is struck each half hour -- one at 8:30 PM, two at 9:00 PM and so on, culminating in eight bells as the watch changes. In First Watch, marking successively longer sections, a low pedal E is the watch-bell. The canal trade is recalled by references to four folk songs. At 10 PM (“four bells”), there is a homage to the hazards of the Adirondack logging trade (“The Wild Mustard River”) and, later, fragments of three Erie Canal songs (“Low Bridge—Everybody Down”, “Oh! Dat Low Bridge”, and “The E-ri-e”) are introduced. The piece ends quietly as the watch changes at midnight. – HT
From the Song of Amergin, is in five sections, played without a break. Three lines from Robert Graves’ restoration of the text from an ancient Celtic calendar-alphabet, the “Song of Amergin”, directly inspired the piece: “I am a wind: on a deep lake, I am a tear: the sun lets fall, I am a hawk: above the cliff.” The three inner sections are shaped by the lines of the poem (the harp is featured in wind/lake, the viola in tear/sun, and the flute in hawk/cliff) and the piece begins and ends with an evocation of “I am.” – HT
Commissioned by the Criccieth Festival with funds provided in part by the Welsh Arts Council, From the Song of Amergin was premiered in Pwllheli, North Wales, June 26th 1995, by harpist Elinor Bennett with members of the Lontano Ensemble.
Performed here by Emily Beynon, flute; Roland Krämer, viola; Petra van der Heide, harp. (Audio excerpt is the beginning.)
In 2003, flutist Christiane Meininger asked the composer to consider a trio inspired by the last of the Medicis, the remarkable Anna Maria Luisa (1667-1743) who left Italy for Germany for twenty-six years while married to Johann Wilhelm of Saxony. Just one facet of her colourful life influences the composition: each of the three movements reveals her love of nature under cultivation. In one of her letters home to Italy, she writes that she kept dark yellow tulips in her sleeping room, “just to see something beautiful” (in her words, “nur um etwas Schoenes zu sehen”). This quotation inspired the first movement which begins slowly, regally, and then “blossoms” at its conclusion. The second movement reflects Anna Maria Luisa’s enjoyment of the park-like grounds of Schloss Benrath. A quotation from Tagore is found at the museum there: “Narren hasten, Kluge warten, Weise gehen in den Garten” (“Fools hurry, clever ones wait, wise ones walk in the garden”). The inspiration for the final movement comes from the formal garden which Anna Maria Luisa created in a villa near Florence to console herself after the death of her father, Grand Duke Cosimo III. The “Villa La Quiete” is named after an upper floor fresco by G. da San Giovanni, “The Quiet that Calms the Wind”. – HT
Gardens of Anna Maria de Medici, completed in February 2004, was commissioned by the Meininger Trio with funds provided by the International Festival of Lake Constance (the Bodensee Festival). It received its premiere May 9, 2004, at Bad Waldsee, Germany.
Performed here by the Meininger Trio - Christiane Meininger, flute; Francoise Groben, cello; Rainier Gepp, piano. (Audio excerpt is from Mvt 3.)
In the First, Spinning Place was premiered by Debra Richtmeyer and the University of Arizona Symphony Orchestra at NASA 2000. After a slow introduction, each of the three interlinked movements carries a subtitle from “Fern Hill” by Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas: “Down the rivers of the windfall light,” “And the sabbath rang slowly / In the pebbles of the holy streams,” and “In the first, spinning place.”
The alto saxophone and piano version (commissioned by the Illini Saxophone Club, 2009) was premiered by Debra Richtmeyer and leng-leng Lam July 8, 2009, at the WXV World Saxophone Congress in Bangkok, Thailand.
Performed here by Debra Richtmeyer, alto saxophone; leng-leng Lam, piano. (Audio excerpt is the beginning.)
Nothing Forgotten takes its title from part of a long poem by Jordan Smith (“A Lesson from the Hudson River School: Glens Falls, New York, 1848” from An Apology for Loving the Old Hymns, Princeton University Press, 1982). The complete sentence reads: “You see, what scares me / about this landscape is that nothing is new, / nothing forgotten, nothing lost, / and nothing changes.”
The piece is in three interlinked movements, played without a break. Each movement has a subtitle, again taken from Jordan Smith’s poem:
1. Andante maestoso
“as if the granite were / some half-forgotten spirit”
“all that light caught forever in the pine boughs /
bound between the stones and current”
3. Andante recitativo - Larghetto flessibile
“the mesh of branches, root, and sky”
Windows into two traditional Adirondack songs are included in the piece: towards the beginning, “The Jam on Gerry’s Rock” as transcribed in Adirondack Voices, by Robert D. Bethke (University of Illinois Press, 1981), and, towards the end, a free version of “Miner Hill” (which itself bears close resemblance to the lumbering ballad, “Blue Mountain Lake”). – HT
Nothing Forgotten was commissioned by Adirondack Ensemble (Michael Dabroski, Lisa Spilde, Ovidiu Marinescu, and Daniel Weiser) and received its premiere by the Adirondack Ensemble, December 7, 1997, at the Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, New York.
Performed here by Matthew Jones, viola; Thomas Carroll, cello; Michael Hampton, piano. (Audio excerpt is the beginning.)
Of Erthe and Air is a phrase from a poem by John Trevisa (d.1402) titled “For this World Fareth as a Fantasye.” The piece was composed in fall 1990, in response to a commission from the New Renaissance Chamber Artists, while the composer was in Japan. The use of frame drums suggested linear, propulsive time – an awakening of the spirit (tami furi); the clarinet and flute suggested circular, meditative time – a quietening of the spirit (tama shizume). The melodic and rhythmic elements first appear separately, then merge, then finally diverge to conjure up an old Dreame. – HT
Premiere: The Pleiades Gallery, New York City, May 19, 1991 by the New Renaissance Chamber Artists.
Performed here by Madeleine Staunton, fl/picc; Paul Roe, cl/bs cl; Richard O’Donnell, perc. (Audio excerpt is the beginning.)
OF ERTHE AND AIR (Saxophone version)
fl/picc, soprano sax/baritone sax, frame drum/hand percussion Duration: c. 15 minutes Publisher: Oxford University Press
On Ear and Ear … takes its cue from the opening few measures of Milton Babbitt’s 1950 Composition for Viola and Piano. Heard in slow motion, there is something so tender about the timbral and registral choices in the first four measures and these become reference points for this hommage. The title is from Gerard Manley Hopkins’ sonnet, “The Sea and the Skylark”. The two “ears” become those of the composer and her mentor at Princeton (Milton Babbitt); the two instruments (piano and viola); and the sea (“low lull-off or all roar”) and lark (“his rash-fresh rewinded new-skeinèd score”). On Ear and Ear … was composed in June/July 2011 for the Perspectives of New Music / Open Space memorial tribute to Milton Babbitt.
SHAKKEI (for piano & soloist)
piano & solo oboe (solo flute or solo sop. sax.) transcription of original concerto Duration: c. 14 minutes Publisher: Rowanberry Music
“Shakkei,” a term used in Japanese landscape design, means “borrowed scenery.” Two well-known examples of shakkei underlie the oboe concerto. The first movement, marked “slow and spacious”, is inspired by Mount Hiei as viewed from Shoden-ji, a temple with a dry landscape garden. The second movement, marked leggiero, is inspired by the hills of Arashiyama as viewed from Tenryu-ji, a temple with a lush stroll garden. In musical terms, the sparse landscape of the first movement is complemented by an “overgrown” second movement. In both movements the composer could not resist lightly “borrowing” from Debussy’s Nuages since the idea of borrowing was part of the identity of the piece and a cor anglais was at hand. – HT
Shôji are sliding Japanese latticed screens, usually covered with opaque white paper. The composer imagined images on three such screens – I. Autumn mist (mesto), II. Butterflies (leggiero), and III. Kimono (eguale). The composition consists of a succession of meditative “bamboo leaf shaped” phrases which record the way these images might be seen to interact. – HT
Shôji was commissioned by oboist Shannon Spicciati for the 2010 IDRS Conference in Oklahoma.
... slate, blue-gray was commissioned by The Kandinsky Trio as part of a 25th
Anniversary celebration. The piece is a short "prelude" to Nothing Forgotten, an earlier piano
trio. Both titles refer to a poem by Jordan Smith ("A Lesson from the Hudson River School:
Glens Falls, New York, 1848"), "slate, blue-gray" being one of the mysterious colors of the
"speedy passage of the current through our more constant line of sight". Hilary Tann
Solstice was commissioned by the Ricochet Duo to honor Adirondack woodswoman, Anne LaBastille. LaBastille's four woodswomen books are the direct inspiration for the composition. The title, Solstice, comes from book IIII/p.19 ("the sense of full circle"). The "full circle" of the piece, from Breakup ("prelude to spring" I/p.146) to Freeze-up ("prelude to winter" I/p.1), is as follows: Breakup "imperceptible dissolution" I. WHITE PINES "this strange attunement" II. LILYPAD LAKE "Sainte Terre - my holy land" III. KESTREL "flying into the wind" Freeze-up "icy slivers and darts"
First Performance: August 17 2014, Lake Placid Arts Center NY, by the Ricochet Duo (Rose Chancler, piano, and Jane Boxall, marimba)
As a composer my work is strongly influenced by the natural world. In recent pieces I've become interested in the particulars of the ways in which nature affects the viewer ... and in how much the viewer brings to the scene. Commissioned by the Lunar Saxophone Quartet, Some of the Silence is a slow movement based on a haiku by John Stevenson -- "a deep gorge / some of the silence / is me.” During the course of the piece the gorge is viewed three times. Each time a different aspect of the gorge is seen and each aspect affects the viewer in a different way. – HT
Premiere: Millennium Center, Cardiff, Wales by the Lunar Saxophone Quartet, October 2010.
Morlais Castle, near the composers’ home in South Wales, was destroyed by the Welsh in 1314. Only ruins remain. In fact, in many places, it is almost impossible to tell whether a particular mound of earth and stones is part of the rocky, bare landscape or part of the old castle walls. At one point a protruding piece of wall is evident. The rhythmical placement of the stone bricks in the partial wall lies in contrast to the haphazard placement of the rocks in the surrounding scree. The composition was inspired by this contrast -- a contrast between ruined castle walls and a landscape naturally strewn with rocks. Within this image there is also an implied contrast between the hustle and bustle of the former castle and its present bleak appearance, where the site of the castle is practically indistinguishable from the natural contours of the high moorland. – HT
Performed here by Alun Darbyshire, oboe; Matthew Jones, viola; Thomas Carroll, cello. (Audio excerpt is the beginning.)
Water’s Edge is in three interlinked movements, each of which may be performed separately. The “edge” of the title refers to the upper surface of the water as it reflects or refracts light. In the first movement (Dawn Light), the light is held at the surface, while in the second movement (From the Riverbed), the light dances through the upper surface of the water to the riverbed below. During the final movement (Toward Dusk), echoes of the previous two movements are heard as the light fades from view. – HT
The work was originally composed as a piano duet for advanced students in response to a commission from the New York State Music Teachers’ Association. The first performance was given at the NYSMTA Conference, 30 October 1993, at SUNY Purchase, NY. The composer’s transcription for string orchestra was premiered the following year (30 August, 1994) by the Presteigne Festival Orchestra conducted by George Vass, in Presteigne, Wales. The US premiere took place in Schenectady NY, by the St. Cecelia Orchestra conducted by Peter Bay, 6 November, 1994.