At lunchtime today I played a lunchtime recital at St.Bride’s, Fleet Street with Simon Desbruslais, performing music for trumpet and organ. Apart from a concerto by Hertel the repertoire was late twentieth or early twenty first century music, works by Rautavaara, Holloway and the second performance of my own Achias The Hero. This is a real challenge of stamina for the performer, and the work was placed dangerously at the start of the programme. For safety reasons, Simon ducked out of the high C# at the climactic moment of the work, as he did, in fact, at the premiere. I like this. Achias is, as the title suggests, heroic, and needs to perform heroic deeds. In a way, by not playing that top note, the performer reinforces Achias’s achievements. One day I’ll hear it with that top note, though.
I was pleased with the writing in the organ part. Gavin Roberts played for the first performance, so this was my first opportunity to get my hands properly dirty with the piece, and it’s quite fun to play. I avoided the temptation to put in notes for the sake of filling rests, so it is light and airy and uses the full organ only sparingly. As I recall it took me some time to write this piece, so I am very happy with the result, even though I realise that my language has moved on since then.
What writing I have done today has been aimed at cracking the problem of the structure and layout of this new orchestral work, so this has been a day spent away from manuscript. I have, I think, enough raw material for the main body of the piece, but the question now is how to put it together. I have gradually withdrawn from the sonata form layout which has been ubiquitous since the Classical era, and have been concentrating more of late on ritornello forms, such as those found in the concerti of the Baroque. In the Baroque the repetitions of the ritornello material are often exact, but I like to develop as I go along, borrowing elements of Sibelius’s rotational technique. Sibelius is another of those composers for whom I have huge admiration, and his 5th Symphony has slowly but surely supplanted the 4th as my favourite of his large works. There is a logical inevitability about his music as the fragments of themes and motifs coalesce into the focal point of the work that I find utterly enthralling, and yet his works hang together often by the thinnest of threads. Try whistling one of his symphonies and see how far you get before you think “hang on, how does the next bit go?”. I’ll descend into purple prose if I write more about this Titan’s music, so perhaps that’s enough for now.
Tomorrow I plan to get back to writing notes, and fighting to shape them into the outline I have designed today. Today I have had other things to do, so it is always a pleasure to get back to my writing desk, even though it is still not in my composing room.