Looking Through Mirrors is now available on Composers Edition.
The Times 1998
‘Brilliant music imagination… a five-movement suite paying obvious homage to Ravel, but also Beethoven. Certainly difficult, nevertheless it is finely conceived for the instrument.’
Birmingham Post 1998
From the composer:
‘Bromsgrove Mixing Music commissioned the suite for Rolf Hind who gave the first performance in February 1998.
For quite a while I have wished to create a digital copy of the hand written score and I am pleased to say that I have not had to make extensive revisions to the pieces although the first in the set has undergone a slight change. Moreover the process of revisiting a work composed over 20 years ago and digitising has been a labour of love rather than just a necessary chore. In most cases it has been a tweak here and there or tidying up the notation to allow the “logic” of a computer to manage some of the aleatoric sections.
The last in the set, Plain lies and lullabies, was the first to be composed. Dedicated to my two sons, who were very young at the time, the piece is “a pleasant, post-Debussyian berceuse”: The Musical Times 1996. But there is more to the piece than that. Having recently moved to Worcester I found a beautiful extract of plainsong whilst undertaking research in the city’s cathedral and the melodic line derives from the ancient manuscript. In 1995 I began to use the Golden Ratio and Fibonacci numbers in my music which is quite explicit in the score (Fibs: lies) and the idea of composing a gentle lullaby seemed most appropriate at that time for reasons stated above. Rolf Hind performed the piece, during the 1996 Cheltenham Festival of Music.
Whilst a student at The Royal Academy of Music I became somewhat obsessed with Ravel’s piano music trying to get my fingers round his difficult but pianistic works and, of course, Miroirs, amongst others, was a set that my limited technique could just about manage then (certainly not now!). Having been commissioned and knowing that Rolf would be the performer the model was obvious but the resultant music does not sound ‘Ravelian’ in any way, more the spirit and the steely virtuosity remain.
The first piece, Breaking through, uses material from Noctuelles as a starting point and juxtaposes two ideas, one lyrical the other rhythmic until the two merge toward the end.
Points of departure is a collection of micro pieces in part derived from a wider selection of Ravel’s works filtered through my compositional lens. Holding them together is a simple harmonic idea developed from the last of the Trois poemes de Stephane Mallarme, the closest the composer ever ventured toward a post Pierrot Lunaire world.
Reflected back is an autobiographical journey rather than sea voyage (as in Miroirs). Violent swings of mood, texture and timbre are what compels the music onward and as it is about “me” I’ll say no more.
Lavender mist, described by Vic Hoyland as a “bravura piece”, is a study in pianistic dynamism exploring the full range of the instrument. It requires a rapid brushing of the keys technique and careful control of the pedals throughout. The score contains indications of the pedalling but these are merely suggestions and are dependent on the instrument used and acoustic present in the performance area. In digital terms this was the most problematic to notate using software as the hand written score would cause most programs to crash. A few minor tweaks were necessary, nothing major however.
The set lasts approximately 28 minutes but each piece can stand-alone or be performed, as has been the case, in smaller groups such as 2,4 and 5 as chosen by Peter O’Hagan for a recital at The Warehouse in London several years ago.’