Duration: 18’
Instrumentation: solo French horn, percussion ( 6 players),   (+ optional string trio)
First performance: Théâtre de la Ville, Paris 20 November 1986 (reduced instrumentation); Union Chapel, Almeida Festival, June 13 1987(full version)

Note : Viennese Dance No. 1 (1985)

Viennese Dance No. 1 (1985)

for French horn and percussion (6 players)

Viennese Dance No.1 was written in 1985 for Pascal Pongy, at that time principal horn with the orchestra of the Opéra de Lyon. It was written to be included in my first recording for ECM Records and the first performance took place in the recording studio in Ludwigsberg, Germany.

I had worked closely with Pascal during the period of rehearsal and performance of my first opera Medea in 1984 and we became good friends. The music originated in an aria I drafted for Mata Hari, who appears as one of a number of historical and fictional characters in Robert Wilson's projected opera The Civil WarS which I worked on from 1981 until its abandonment in 1984. Some parts of the accompaniment, for a large ensemble involving six percussionists, was tried out during sketch rehearsals in the radio station in Baden Baden. Mata Hari was one of the three most celebrated dancers in the world who, unknown to each other, happened to be staying in Vienna on the same night in 1904  - hence the title. My first string quartet (subtitled "between the National and the Bristol") also recorded for the same album alludes to this coincidence too.


Duration: c. 18’
Dedication: Paul Manley and the Primavera Chamber Orchestra
Instrumentation: solo violin, strings (minimum
First Performance: Paul Manley and the Primavera Chamber Orchestra, De la Warr Pavillion, Bexhill on Sea, October 22 2000

Note : Violin Concerto ("The Bulls of Bashan") [2000]

Violin Concerto ("The Bulls of Bashan") [2000]

for violin and strings

The Violin Concerto, scored for solo violin and strings alone, was commissioned by the Primavera Chamber Orchestra for its leader Paul Manley and is the second piece that I have written for them.  The first, The Porazzi Fragment, for 21 solo strings, came about because of my admiration for the approach that the orchestra takes to performance - playing without a conductor, in effect as chamber musicians.  In the case of the concerto I did not want to write a virtuoso show-piece, but rather to draw on the orchestra's alertness as an ensemble.  The solo part is essentially lyrical and there is no cadenza as such.  But I was also conscious of the fact that, as with a baroque concerto, the soloist may also direct the work - and does so here.

Given the name of the orchestra and the fact that this is a violin concerto, there are a number of allusions to Vivaldi's Four Seasons.  There is also an extensive use of mutes, including  staggered transitions from muted to unmuted and vice versa, like a cross-fade in recording.  This use of mutes brought about the subtitle, which comes from an aside by Cecil Forsythe in his book on orchestration in which he pours scorn on the noise which string players would make when attaching mutes to their instruments (he was writing in 1914). Here is the passage in full.

"Unhappily the mutes remain something of a problem on the mechanical side of concert-room organisation.  When they are required the noise and fuss is most distressing, and, as these moments always occur when a pp is approaching, the musical attention of the audience is completely distracted. About fifty or sixty players all rattle their bows down on their desks in order to be free to search their waistcoat pockets.  When the mutes have been dragged out they are fitted to the bridges with a studied and elaborate caution which may be necessary to preserve the bridges from injury, but which gives an impression that the players are taking part in a solemn cabalistic rite.  And all this occurs in 1914 when inventors are as thick as bulls in Bashan."

The concerto is dedicated to Paul Manley and the Primavera Chamber Orchestra.