ORCHESTRAL MUSIC

THE WATER IS WIDE
 
 
   The water is wide is an orchestrated and simultaneously abridged and enlarged version of the Ap Huw Variations for harp or piano, and was commissioned for the opening ceremony of the Cardiff Bay Barrage (an event that in the end did not take place in the originally contemplated form); the programme underlying the variations reflects this commission.  The final (optional) verse for chorus is by David Leverett.
 

Theme   There is the National Library of Wales a piece of music which is supposed to be the oldest piece of written Welsh music in existence. The manuscript is entitled Ap Huw, but it is unclear whether this is the name of the piece, its composer or its owner; and if it is a traditional folk tune, the words are lost. This is the theme that forms the basis for this set of characteristic variations, played first on the oboe with a rustling background for strings and harp like the voices of nature.

 

Variation I   The first thing that happens to a folk tune is that it gets taken up by the church, and these variations are no exception. The tune is heard transformed into a hymn and played in alternation by the sounds of a church organ and a brass band.

 

Variation II   The second thing that happens to a folk tune is that it gets turned into a dance. The hymn is interrupted by a waltz, at first played as if by violin and guitar, then as if by piano accordion, and finally in the sounds of the full orchestra.

 

Variation III   Peace is restored by a gentle lullaby on flute, oboe and clarinet, accompanied by harp and strings. This reflects the possibility that the original tune was designed as a penillion, when a new melody would have been recited at festivals by bards over the existing accompaniment.

 

Variation IV   The progress of history brings us to the Industrial Revolution. The tune is now heard thundered out by full brass and percussion, but the course of the melody is continually shifted into strange and often unrelated keys, and subjected to overwhelming force.

 

Variation V   The Industrial Revolution brings other new sounds. The original melody is now transformed into a sort of Irish or Scottish jig, with yet another new theme like a carousel jingling above it.  The relentless rhythm of the jig is twice interrupted by a sailor’s hornpipe.

 

Variation VI     The death of industry in Wales brings a shadow of regret over the music. A steady drum beat underpins a long solemn melody singing a lament for the loss of hope; but at the same time the voices of nature from the original theme begin to make themselves heard again.

 

Finale   This is the longest movement, lasting around five minutes. Another new theme emerges from the voices of nature, heralded by distant but approaching fanfares in the brass. This theme, which is based on the folksong The water is wide, found everywhere in the west of Britain from Somerset to Scotland, happens (by a delightful coincidence!) to share the same opening notes with the Ap Huw theme; and the two melodies proceed in conjunction with each other, expanding out in expression of the theme of rejuvenation, evolution and renewal. Finally the Ap Huw theme returns by itself, now as a triumphal march on the brass (with the chorus joining in) surrounded by skirling woodwinds and rocketing strings.
 

The trade wind blows, and carries my dreams;

to distant lands would I roam.

Seafarers all ride on the moonbeams,

till family love brings them home.

The oceans of the world are wide,

yet by every harbour side

when sailors come home to port,

in every net that they have cast

the present still reflects the past,

and dreams remain that are caught.

 

 

 

TERRITORY

 

   This piece is a particular tribute to a friend , whose name is reflected in the music itself as well as in the dedication of the score.  The opening theme on lower strings is a direct transcription of his first name: T (transcribed from the French as B)—E—R (transcribed similarly as D)—R—Y (treated as Welsh U, equivalent to the French Ut meaning C).  This is stated as an ostinato bass underlying first a further direct transcription of the same theme at half the original speed, and then a flute melody which becomes steadily quicker and more impassioned and highly decorated.

   As the music gathers speed it moves into 3/4 and a new theme enters in the middle strings over a rapid timpani heartbeat. This is a transcription of a melody used by John Taverner and is then repeated by the flute, when the words are inserted into the score:

                O Western Wind, when wilt thou blow?

                The small rain down doth rain.

                I would my love were in my arms,

                and I in my bed again.

The melody is repeated again by the strings over richer harmonies, and is then interrupted by a return of the opening TERRY theme, now chromatically altered and delivered in full strength by the strings interspersed with reminiscences of the earlier flute melody.

   The opening ostinato material returns, now in a somewhat abridged form, and is then overlaid with the Taverner Western Wind theme once again on the flute (by a very happy coincidence it fits exactly).  The ostinato bass dies down, and the final chord is a sustained B minor under which the TERRY theme throbs for one last time on the timpani.

 
 
ORCHESTRAL SUITES from operas
 
 
 
THE BLACK GATE IS CLOSED  Suites Nos 1-3
 

The Black Gate is closed has many faults of dramatic pacing and orchestral balance; but some parts of the score were always too good to be lost, and one section (the Prelude to the Third Act, which opens the third of these Suites), found its way substantially unchanged into The Children of Húrin.  In these suites, too, there may be seen the original germs for themes that were afterwards developed in a different manner and subsequently incorporated into later work.

The original version of the motif of the Ring had already been rhythmically and melodically altered, whilst retaining its original harmonic outline, some three years later when it found its way into The Hobbit and from there, later again, into the Akallabêth and Beren and Lúthien.  Gollum’s theme also found its way, melodically changed, into The Hobbit; but the ‘hobbit’ theme itself was not changed at all. Although the ‘Sauron’ motif used in The Hobbit and Beren and Lúthien also derived from work in The Black Gate is closed, it only figures briefly in the Suites, and in both cases in a slightly changed rhythmic form. There is also a hint of the Shelob theme which later (in a rhythmically changed version) became the theme for Ungoliant in Fëanor.

At the original time of writing the instrumentation of the Suites was reduced for a normal-sized orchestra. The passages chosen for inclusion were largely the orchestral interludes between scenes, and as such do not give a completely rounded impression of the opera as a whole; but each of the suites does present, in chronological order, sections from each of the individual Acts. As such they may be fairly said to give an overview of that section of the complete work. There are some brief extracts from the vocal sections (the Fisherman’s song is one; another is the Oliphaunt chorus), where the vocal parts have been rescored into the orchestra.

The full orchestration of the original suites was never completed, having the same lacunae as the full score from which they derived; this was rectified when they were extracted for publication in 1998. At the same time some alterations were made to the barring of the original, and some minor amendments were made to the orchestration. The temptation to alter various of the themes to what might be regarded as their more ‘familiar’ later guises was, however, resisted.

 

 

DIARMUID AND GRÁINNE  Four movements

 

I              Prelude                                                                  

II             Scherzo                                                 

III           Nocturne              

IV           Funeral march

 

   At  the  time  that  these movements were copied from the full score (for an intended performance as ‘Symphony No 2’ which also included material from The Watchman—the score being subsequently lost) some alterations were made to the original material, and this has subsequently been taken back into the original full    score.    The    four  movements     consist     of              largely instrumental sections of the original score, but have been transposed for a chamber orchestra. The score bears no relationship to the lost suite sent to RTÉ referred to above, which was given the independent title of The scattering of the rushes and consisted of sections from the later acts of the opera (including voices).

 

 

THE HOBBIT  Suites Nos 1 and 2

 

The habit of extracting orchestral suites from larger-scale works has tended to fall into disuse, at any rate in the operatic field, during the twentieth century.  In the days of Rimsky-Korsakov, for example, it was the standard procedure for composers themselves regularly to publish an orchestral suite of music from each of their operas, often composing additional linking material in order to do so.  In the twentieth century suites have been adapted from operas by Britten, Walton and Tippett among others, but these have more usually been the work of other hands; only Vaughan Williams in this country regularly made a habit of producing a suite from each of his larger operas.  These suites (and others from my operas) are in part an attempt to revive the custom, and in each case some considerable adaptation of the original material has been made in order to create a unified whole.

 

Over Hill and Under Hill

 

These two suites contain extracts from both the operas, Over Hill and Under Hill and Fire and Water, but intermingle them; thus the movement entitled The banners of lake and wood comes in fact from Fire and Water, where it forms an interlude following the death of Smaug.  The two suites are however unified by the theme of the Shire, stated at the beginning of the first movement of the first suite (after the opening chords) by the cellos and restated with variations in both suites, finally appearing at the very end of Fire and Water as Bilbo returns to his home.  The first movement is a combination of the prelude to Act One of Over Hill and Under Hill with the first interlude (which follows the initial meeting of Bilbo and Gandalf) and presents the Shire theme itself followed by three variations of increasing elaboration. The second movement consists of the second interlude from Act One, as the company set out into the Wilderlands, continues into a brief interlude from Act Two describing the valley of Rivendell, and concludes with the extended interlude which describes The finding of the Ring. This begins with the music which accompanies Bilbo’s actual discovery of the Ring and then continues into a dark and sombre passage which portrays the grim significance of this discovery, in a passage which subsequently found employment in Beren and Lúthien; finally this dissolves into a slow dripping figure on the vibraphone, as the scene changes to the cave of Gollum and prepares for his appearance.

The last movement of the first suite, The banners of lake and wood, begins with the themes associated with Bard and the Master of Esgaroth; it then reprises the melody first heard in Act One of Fire and Water and sung to the words “The King beneath the Mountain” (although the actual setting of the words is lost).  The whole is then repeated with variations before the theme of the Elvenking heralds the arrival of Thranduil’s army at Esgaroth.

 

Fire and Water

 

The second Hobbit suite draws entirely from the final Act of Fire and Water.  It opens with the massive funeral march for Thorin Oakenshield, continues with the music associated with the return of Bilbo and Gandalf to Rivendell, and concludes with Bilbo’s song as he reaches his home.  In between there is a flashback to the interlude before the Battle of the Five Armies; this opens with Bard’s theme and then gives another variation on the Shire theme, reduced to a series of slow-moving chords, as Bilbo stands on watch and hears the drumbeats and trumpet-calls sounding in the early morning light.  Bilbo’s song brings a final citation of the Shire theme.

 

 

THE DEATH OF ÓISIN

 

 

This short movement consists of the prelude and final Nocturnal from the chamber opera for church performance. The whole work is rescored, to eliminate the organ and vocal parts; but other than this there are no alterations to the substance of the score.  The piece describes the death of the Irish pagan hero óisin.

 

THE COLD CRYSTAL STARS

 

This suite is extracted from my one-act opera based on the short story by Oscar Wilde. It was originally prepared for chamber ensemble, and in that form was performed in London in 1976; but this version restores the original orchestration (the chamber version remains unpublished). It opens with the interlude as night falls across the garden, and then links into a passage from later in the score as the nightingale sings of the birth of passion in the soul of a man and a maid. There then follows a transcription of a passage, originally for unaccompanied voices, as the cold crystal stars lean down and listen.

   The final section begins with a funeral march for the dead nightingale, where the middle section quotes the melody associated with “the love that is perfected by death, the lover that dies not in the tomb”. This melody returns at the very end of the opera, but the final chords are the discordant ones associated with the words of the student: What a silly thing love is!…I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics.

 

 

ARCTURUS  Scenes and visions

 

   This suite rescores the preludes and interludes from the chamber opera Arcturus (based on David Lindsay’s novel so much admired by Tolkien and Lewis) for a full symphony orchestra, and also restores some brief passages in the final vision Muspel that were cut in the recording of the complete work.

 

 

 

FËANOR  Suite

 

   The suite consists of five extracts from the complete work.  The first movement, The haven of the Swans, forms the prelude to the Seventh Scene and describes the  harbour   of  Alqualondë  with  its  sea-wrought  arch and many lamps; the rocking rhythm of the sea is heard in every bar. The second movement forms part of the First Scene and describes The awakening of the Elves.  The long-limbed melody which arises out of the opening material will recur many times in the work as the theme associated with the Hidden Kingdom of Doriath. The next movement, also from the First Scene, describes The waters of Cuiviénen by which the Elves awake, and takes up the Doriath theme developing it further in conjunction with other themes associated with the Elves.  The fourth movement forms the end of the Second Scene and describes The two Trees which give light to the land of the Valar, alternately opening and closing.  The single theme is developed in two alternate strands, and then dies down as the choir describes the ‘noontide of the Blessed Realm’.  The last movement, The three Jewels, forms the end of the Third Scene and describes the Silmarils that Fëanor forms from the light of the Trees. The main theme of the Silmarils is surrounded by other themes associated with the Blessed Realm and the Elves, and ends as the Jewels are hallowed by Elbereth and Mandos.

 

music samples available:

The Waters of Cuiviénen: http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?1xyu1gju6f20o2u

The Two Trees: http://youtu.be/I_7lq8wdszY

 

BEREN AND LÚTHIEN  Suite

 

   The first movement, The Thousand Caves, is the prelude to the Fourth Scene and depicts the Halls of Menegroth in Doriath, with changing vistas on every side.  The music here is the main Doriath theme, with the flute of Daeron the minstrel prominent.  The flute also dominates the second movement, The woodland glade, which forms the opening of the Third Scene and leads into a chorus with words drawn from The Lord of the Rings: “The leaves were green.”   The third movement, Lúthien’s dance, takes material from the Third Scene and expands it in the Seventh Scene as she dances before Morgoth: a dance to raise nameless passions and desires.  The fourth movement returns to the Third Scene and forms the end of the Love scene.  Daeron’s flute theme is mingled with the themes of Beren and Lúthien themselves, and these latter continue to weave around the chorus as they sing further lines from The Lord of the Rings: “As Beren looked into her eyes…”  The final section of the suite, The halls of Mandos, describes Lúthien’s journey beyond death in search of Beren, and her song before the Lord of Death who grants her request to rejoin her beloved.  At the end the chorus sing the final lines from Aragorn’s lay in The Lord of the Rings.

 

music samples available:

The Woodland Glade: http://www.youtube.com/embed/_z5m1A3Ljbk

Lúthien's Dance: http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?n2zyxt447bzdco1

 

THE CHILDREN OF HÚRIN Suite

 

   The three movements of this suite are all drawn from the Third Triptych. The first, The forest of Brethil at dawn, is the prelude to the Seventh Scene; the main theme will become the melody of the love duet. The second movement, Turambar, is a transcription of Túrin’s words as he resolves to take a new name and so “put my shadow behind me”. The final movement consists of the whole of the Epilogue of the work.  It begins with a Funeral march for Túrin, and the main theme of this march then surrounds the dialogue between his grieving parents which leads to the Death of Morwen.  The end of the work softly breathes the theme of mortality which will assume greater importance in the last part of the cycle.

 

music sample available: Funeral March - The Death of Morwen:

http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?ehvy1ee0788fb25

 

THE FALL OF GONDOLIN  Suite

 

   After a Wedding March which opens Scene Seven, the theme of mortality is taken up and developed to form an extended Love duet for Tuor and Idril; the words are drawn from Tolkien’s poem Aeflwine’s Hymn to Eärendil.  In the middle section the theme of the Valar is heard twice; it has occurred many times before in the course of the cycle, and in the suites it has already been heard in the final section of Beren and Lúthien.  The second movement consists of the long narration given to Tuor at the beginning of Scene Five, The horns of Ulmo.  This sets the poem of the same name and consists of two main themes which intertwine with one another, then taking up in turn the opening of the Wedding March and the theme of the Valar before the original material returns.  The final movement, The passage to Valinor, is the Epilogue to the whole cycle and again contrasts a number of themes, some of which have previously been heard (but not in these Suites).  At the climax the theme of the Two Trees from Fëanor returns, sung by a distant chorus from over the water.

 

music samples available:
The Passage to Valinor:  http://youtu.be/rXKWZMcvgXg

 

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