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Programme Notes: String Orchestra



Passacaglia for Strings  Opus 74

A series of variations which gradually evolve to an impassioned statement of the theme, Merch Ifanc, the bass of which forms the passacaglia bass pattern, which then devolve back to their original state. 

Limpertsberg, Luxembourg, 1994

Prague Serenade  Opus 99

Following a strenuous week in Prague in February, 1997, recording my second and third symphonies, I arrived back in Luxembourg to discover that the airline had lost my luggage, containing scores, stick and ... master tapes. In a state of incandescent stress, still in hat and coat, I sat at the piano and hammered out a piece of music. The result was ... the Prague Serenade, perhaps the happiest and most felicitous music I have ever written. Certainly not what I expected. The music is a homage to Prague, to Dvorak (outer sections) and to the Janacek of Jenufa (central part). Perhaps I should lose my luggage more often ... (it did turn up eventually!)

Buschdorf, Luxembourg, 1997 

'Emynau' Suite for Strings  Opus 173a

Fragments of Welsh hymn tunes are combined and recombined: ‘Rheidol’ and ‘In Memoriam’ in the 1st movement, ‘Gwahoddiad’ in the 2nd and ‘In Memoriam’ again in the 3rd.

Fachwen, Wales, Summer 2008

Garth Celyn  Opus 174

An attempt to evoke the panic and broken dreams during the period after the murder of Llywelyn, Prince of Wales, in December 1282. Garth Celyn, the royal home of the Princes, is in turmoil ... impossible dreams of freedom persist ...

Canach, Luxembourg, 2007 

Homage for String Orchestra  Opus 201

A lyrical Homage to an Austrian friend and colleague,

Canach, Luxembourg, 2011 - One Movement 

Wintersea  Opus 202

Dedicated to Kathryn Gibson who took an inspiring photo of a bleak and static winter seascape in North Wales.

Canach, Luxembourg, January 2012 

Birthday Serenade  Opus 213 

I wrote this for myself on my 60th Birthday!

Canach, Luxembourg,  29th April 2013

Wedding Serenade  Opus 278 

A very short string orchestra serenade written for, and played during, the wedding of Jenny de Nijs and Nick Geoffreys in Luxembourg City.

Hinterthal, Austria, 2018 

An Answer in Search of a Question  Opus 287

Meditative music for String Orchestra and Harp. II think this is my Spiegel im Spiegel. In the form of a wave, from high to low, back up again etc. Sometimes the harp is the question, the orchestra the answer, sometimes the other way round. Orchestra and harp seem to influence each other, but only rarely coincide. Perhaps a meditation, a sutra? … 

Senheim, Germany, May 1st 2019

The March of Days  Opus 293

Faced with the objective chronology of the repeating seasons, we can do little but question and hope as our time evaporates …

Senheim, Germany, October 25th, 2019

Suite for String Orchestra ‘Gratias’  Opus 308

Thanks, relief and jubilation at the positive news of the return of decency to the White House and the development of a vaccine against Covid. Three movements.

Senheim, Germany, November 2020

Dedicated to Ugur Sahin, Özlem Türeci and President Joe Biden

Threnody for Dominique Dupraz  Opus 315

Written upon receiving news of the death of my friend, colleague, fellow composer and brother in arms.

Chiddingly, Sussex, England 2021 

Gwenllian: Fantasia for 12 Celli  Opus 150

Gwenllian, eine Fantasie für Solo Celli und Bassi, wurde für Virtuosi di Basso 2003 geschrieben, und uraufgeführt und aufgenommen in Prag. Gwenllian war die letzte walisische Prinzessin von Wales. Sie starb in englischer Gefangenschaft nach der Eroberung von Wales im Jahre 1282. Die Musik reflektiert das Thema eines unnötigerweise verschwendeten Lebens. Im Mittelteil erklingt das walisische Volkslied Merch Ifanc - ein junges Mädchen am Morgen, verheiratet am Mittag und eine Witwe am Abend - Zeit verfliegt, Chancen nicht genutzt; es hätte alles anders sein können, wenn...

Gwenllian, a fantasia for twelve solo celli, was written especially for Virtuosi di Basso in 2003, who premiered and recorded it in Prague. Gwenllian was the last Welsh Princess of Wales. She died tragically in English captivity after the English conquest in 1282. The music reflects this theme of an unnecessarily wasted life. The central section introduces the beautiful Welsh folksong: Merch Ifanc - a young girl in the morning, married at noon, a widow by nightfall - time passes, opportunities and potential are lost, it could and should have been different …

Written for Virtuosi di Basso, the 8 solo celli and two solo bassi of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Premiered at the Rudolfinum, Prague

Fachwen, Wales, 2003

Cysgodion: Fantasia for 12 Celli  Opus 155

Cysgodion (Shadows ... Spirits … ) Written on All Hallows   

Dark, disturbing music from the shadows and the shades.                                         

Written for Virtuosi di Basso, the 8 solo celli and two solo bassi of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Premiered at the Rudolfinum, Prague.

Sŵn y Llyn, Fachwen, November, 2004 

Zlatá Řeka   Opus 161

Zlatá Řeka, Opus 161, was written in Luxembourg in 2006 following the premiere of Cysgodion (Shadows) given by Virtuosi di Basso. Inspired by the sight of the River Vltava, as seen from the terrace outside the Smetana Museum in Prague. The music is simple, with two alternating elements which eventually combine: triplets, representing the swirling waters at the weir, and a lyrical tribute to Smetana, and indeed to Prague.

Written for Virtuosi di Basso, the 8 solo celli and two solo bassi of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Premiered at the Rudolfinum, Prague

Canach, Luxembourg, 2006 

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