About The Music

Dip into our programme notes for pieces presented by Music in the Round. Covering music that is forthcoming and has been recently performed, learn more about the works and also listen to brief extracts. 

About The Music: D

DAVIES Tansy, Yoik

Tansy and I have been collaborating on nature and the horn for many years. A horn player herself, Tansy really understands the primal connection the sound of the horn stimulates in the deepest layers of our shared human experience.  This aspect of her oeuvre fascinates me and I feel it strongly when playing “Yoik”. The haunting lyricism interspersed with a special playing technique sounding like the resonance found in an icy wind of distant memory is just wonderful. Tansy wrote the following about the piece:

A Yoik is not merely a description; it attempts to capture its subject in its entirety: it’s like a holographic, multi-dimensional living image, a replica, not just a flat photograph or simple visual memory. It is not about something, it is that something. It does not begin and it does not end.

A Yoik is not a song in the sense that it is about something. The melody is closely connected to the referential object in an indissoluble relationship. Linguistically this is expressed through the fact that one does not yoik about somebody or something, there is a direct connection; one yoiks something or someone.

The structure of a Yoik follows the Sami worldview of “No beginning, no end”. Sami see the world as following the circular patterns of nature. Living in a whited-out world of snow, often without horizon; perceptions of space, depth, time and environment are all closely-knit mysteries, to which the culture – and the Yoik – are intrinsically connected.

The name Christine Chapman is transmuted here – into the melody of my Yoik for Horn – so this is a yoik for and of her. The piece was composed by the river Medway in Kent, England. It is also a Yoik for that river, in the early morning.

Christine Chapman

DEBUSSY Claude, Piano Preludes Nos 4, 6 & 7 from Book 1

By 1909, Debussy had already composed some of his defining works, including the enthusiastically-received tone poem, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1894). He had also heard and experienced music outside of the Western Classical tradition.

The fourth prelude of Book I, “Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir” (“The sounds and fragrances swirl through the evening air”), takes both its title and inspiration from the poetry of Charles Baudelaire. It is a gentle waltz-like piece in A major with melodies that seem to float as effortlessly as the sounds and fragrances in Baudelaire’s line. Even the harmonies seem tinged with a dusky hue, giving musical evocation to the twilight setting. The prelude is built around three principal ideas and embodies a sort of ternary design, with a brief middle section in the key of A-flat major. It is gentle and subdued, and nowhere is to be found a disturbing phrase or melodic figure. The only true point of contrast within the prelude is a melody in octaves accompanied by a persistent sixteenth-note countermelody. This, however, simply returns us to a variant of the opening melodic motif and the prelude’s serene close.

Des pas sur la neige (Footsteps in the Snow, No. 6) shows Debussy’s unparalleled creativity in using harmonic colours. An omnipresent ostinato runs throughout as a representation, perhaps, of a barren, snow-covered land. Musically, a similar parallel exists: it is a ‘blank’ canvas upon which an array of harmonies are added at different points. These rich sonorities transform the scenery from desolate to ominous to poignant, all before returning to the original key of D minor.

One of the most technically impressive of this first volume is Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest (What the West Wind Saw, No. 7) – robust and at times aggressive, this prelude captures the wind’s fury with the sweeping arpeggios, dominant 7th chords, and perhaps surprisingly dense textures – not to mention the massive chords at the conclusion which maximize the instrument’s low register. However furious the character may be, Debussy’s signature innovative style remains present.


DEBUSSY Syrinx (extract for family concert)

This piece for flute is one of the most famous pieces for the instrument. It is named after the nymph Syrinx from Ancient Greek mythology. The flute-playing mischievous faun Pan falls in love with Syrinx, but she does not return his love so turns herself into a water reed and hides in the marshes…

DVOŘÁK Antonín, Piano Quintet No.2 in A Op.81

Allegro, ma non tanto
Dumka. Andante con moto – Vivace – Andante con moto
Scherzo. Furiant – Molto vivace
Finale. Allegro 

Dvořák composed his great A major Piano Quintet in 1887 (a much earlier quintet from 1872 is in the same key) and it was described by Otakar Šourek as one of ‘the most delightful and successful works’ in the whole chamber music repertoire. From the spacious cello theme that opens the quintet, Dvořák shows the seemingly effortless spontaneity of a composer at the height of his powers. The second theme turns the mood more wistful, and the music oscillates between melancholy and warmth, culminating in a jubilant climax. The second movement is a Dumka, with slow outer sections based on a melancholy tune, and a quick central section derived from the same musical idea. The Scherzo – described by Dvořák as a Furiant – begins with one of his most enchanting quick melodies and this is followed by two more: an undulating tune and another of folk-like simplicity, before the opening idea returns. The central Trio provides an oasis – a tune in long notes over which Dvořák introduces fragments of the main theme. The opening melody of the Finale dominates much of what follows. Near the close, a brief fugal section leads to a moment of tranquillity before the final dash to the end.  

Nigel Simeone © 2014 


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