TRAFODAETH for string quartet
The Welsh title means Discussion or Conversation, and the music for this string quartet movement derives from various sketches which I made during walks in the forests around Wernddu in 2010. During these walks I was often accompanied by a friend and our dog, and the themes reflect our discourses about various widely diverse topics. The sketched themes were combined into this continuous movement during 2012.
There are two principal themes, one representing myself and the other my companion, which are passed from instrument to instrument within the quartet but remain unchanged throughout. At first these themes are played on muted strings, but then emerge into full daylight. The other instruments reflect either the topics we discussed, or the sounds of nature which surrounded our conversations. Towards the end a new theme of a folk-like character emerges, which is again surrounded by the voices of nature and humanity. Only at the very end does the music move to another key, as new vistas open out before us. Where these vistas will eventually lead remains unresolved.
to listen to the music
This Flute Sonata was commissioned by Ray Lewis and was first performed by him in 1976. The work was originally in four movements, but some of the material from the final movement was later detached for use in the later work Daeron and the work was finally published in three movements, which remains the preferred form for performance. The final movement was however restored for the version as published in the collected edition in 2002, although some of the material was re-used in Daeron.
to listen to the first performance given by Ray Lewis and Roger Harris
This Saxophone Sonata was commissioned by Philip Ayrton and was first performed by him together with Anthony Green in 1976. The second and third movements were both partially derived from earlier songs: the dance-like scherzo from Those dancing days are gone, the second of the Three early songs Op 3; and the blues-influenced finale from Monotone, the second of the Three partsongs for mixed choir Op 22.
to listen to thw first performance given by Philip Ayrton and Anthony Green
for violin and harp
or oboe and piano
This work written in 1981 for violin and harp is drawn from sketches made in the 1970s for an unfinished series of music dramas based on J R R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. In 2000 an alternative version was prepared for oboe and piano.
The first movement originated in a setting of the Eagle’s song of victory in The Return of the King beginning
Sing and be glad, ye people of the Tower of Anor,
For the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever
And the Dark Tower is thrown down.
The second and third movements derive from settings of The Hobbit, and both are drawn from the final act of the opera Fire and Water. The second movement is a rather free arrangement of an interlude in the final act following the death of Thorin Oakenshield, and takes shape as a lament and funeral march. The third movement is a transcription of the closing scene of the opera, with Bilbo’s song
Roads go ever ever on
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea…
followed by the music that accompanies his return to the Shire and a peaceful conclusion.
The romance for flute and piano Daeron was written in the late 1980s as a ‘spin-off’ from the work on The Silmarillion which was then proceeding apace. It was always intended, for example, that the opening section would be used in orchestral form as the prelude to Scene Four of Beren and Lúthien, although it derives originally from the opening of the much earlier song The Sea Bell; but the final stark recapitulation was entirely new, and it was only much later that it was in its turn orchestrated to form the interlude at the end of the Fourth Scene. The middle section however was derived from the rejected fourth movement of the Flute Sonata. The score is headed by the following quotation from The Silmarillion:
It is told that in that time Daeron the minstrel strayed from Doriath, and was seen no more. He it was that made
music for the song and dance of Lúthien, and he had loved her, and set all his thought of her in his music. But
seeking for her in despair he wandered upon strange paths, and passing over the mountains he came into the east
of Middle-earth, where for many ages he made lament beside dark waters for Lúthien the daughter of Thingol, most
beautiful of all living things.
performed by the composer on synthesiser and keyboard
flute part available on application: see the e-mail address under Contact Us on the sidebar
Mead beneath the leaves
The four pieces collected as Four Winds were never intended to form a complete whole, and indeed are all scored for different combinations of instruments. The first, the Melodic Variations first performed in 1971, were written for the same ensemble as the second, Psalm 23, which was performed a year earlier; but in the intervening year the school ensemble concerned had lost its third flautist. The short piece for two recorders and piano or harpsichord entitled Mead beneath the leaves includes a reworking of material from an earlier song, the Drinking Song included in the Seven Tolkien Songs Op 7; but the outer material is entirely original. The set also includes a reworking for wind quintet of my earlier piano piece The Iceberg, my only purely dodecaphonic work, and was designed to bring out the linear nature of the part-writing in a way that the piano could not (the original version was finally included in the collection of Eight Studies Op 43).
THE WANDERINGS OF ÓISIN
The suite The Wanderings of Óisin was written, as may well be imagined given the extravagant nature of the scoring for seven clarinets, for a specific group of players in London in 1970. This was the first appearance of material which afterwards reappeared in the chamber opera The Dialogues of Óisin and Saint Patric, and was also incorporated into sketches for a full-scale cantata on the same subject from which excerpts were subsequently published as Three partsongs Op 22. The second section of the suite, however, was derived in its turn from the prelude to the second act of my opera Diarmuid and Gráinne on which I was working contemporaneously.
The score opens with a long-limbed theme for Óisin which leads into the opening scene by the shores of a lake where Niamh, the maiden from the Land of Youth, first comes to Óisin. Her opening words from the poem by William Butler Yeats—Why do you wind no horn, and every hero droop his head?—are inscribed in the score. Óisin responds with a passionate declaration of love—the words You only will I wed are given above the first clarinet part—which is overlaid with a full-blooded statement of his own theme. The second section depicts the journey across the sea to the Land of Youth, and a slow winding melody unfolds over the sounds of a lilting jig. This leads into the third section, depicting the Island of Dancing, where the grass itself sings God is Joy and Joy is God. The next section depicts the Island of Forgetfulness, where three themes wind around each other in an unchanging wheel while the lower melody remains obstinately unchanged. This leads to an extended dialogue for Óisin and Niamh, where yet again words from Yeats are inscribed in the score:
—Lo! love we go
to the Island of Forgetfulness,
for the Islands of Dancing and of Victories
are empty of all power.
—And which of these is the Island of Content?
The next section depicts the farewell of Niamh to Óisin—Oh flaming Lion of the World, when will you come to your rest?—as she permits him to return back across the sea to the lands of mortality, where he will wither and grow old, and the accompaniment depicts the tangled murmur of the waves. At the end Óisin himself dies, and his theme fragments and fades away into oblivion.
It will be noted that the events outlined in the suite form a prelude to the action of The Dialogues of Óisin and Saint Patric, where the death of Óisin is treated in much greater depth.
The very brief Rainbow Fanfare for three trumpets, two trombones, timpani and cymbals was commissioned as an introduction for a stage show, and consists of a brief paraphrase of the well-known song I am what I am from Jerry Herman’s musical version of La Cage aux Folles.
The long minimalist exercise Willow Pattern was written originally purely as an experiment, to see how much duration and variety could be extracted from a basically very primitive idea founded on an oriental pentatonic scale. However the work has been sufficiently approved by several listeners to make me think that it might have a degree of more considerable worth.