Diptych - Two Movements for orchestra originally entitled Dark Night


by Julian Anderson

Full Orchestra
3(II=picc.III=picc+afl).3(III=ca).3.3(III=cbsn) - 4331 - timp - perc(4): crot/t.bells/3 susp.cym/tam-t/vib/5 tpl.bl/SD/siz.cym/guiro/3 tgl/ratchet/BD/handbells/cyms/referee's whistle/2 small electric bells/whip - pno(=cel) - harp - strings (

Commissioned by the Dartington Summer Arts Foundation for the 1991 Dartington International Summer School

First Performance
22.4.95, Barbican Hall, London: BBC Symphony Orchestra/Oliver Knussen

Score 0-571-51782-X on sale, parts for hire

Programme Notes
The idea of composing a large-scale orchestral work in two sharply contrasted parts came to me in 1988 (it arose out of a suggestion from my then teacher John Lambert). Diptych was my first orchestral piece; it was sketched in 1989 and completed in 1990. At that time it bore the descriptive title of Dark Night, but on reflection I substituted the more abstract title, as the work is not in any way programmatic. The piece is the first of a group of related works, including Seadrift, Tiramisù and Khorovod, all composed between 1989 and 1995, and which explored various techniques of melodic writing, heterophony, mode and harmony. Common, also, to all these pieces was an influence of the folk music of Scotland, Ireland and Eastern Europe. Diptych, however, bears much less trace of this influence than the others. Overall, the work traces a gradual slowing of harmonic rhythm from the extreme swiftness of the opening through the calm, smooth unfolding of the second part to the balance of near stasis at the conclusion. ‘Parades’, the first part, is abruptly discontinuous, fantastical, almost surreal in its wild contrasts. Extremely swift, fleeting figures irregularly coalesce into a dense polyphony which deploys the resources of the full orchestra in a sequence of violent climaxes. The surrealist atmosphere is emphasised by the use of a number of unorthodox percussion instruments, including rattles, ratchets and two electric bells. The last of these climaxes disperses suddenly into the second part. ‘Pavillions en l’air’ uses the same musical ideas of ‘Parades’ to very different ends. Everything that was formerly discontinuous is now connected into a continuous whole, which moves smoothly and continuously in a single musical curve. After the climax featuring horns, trumpets and trombones playing with their bells in the air (hence the subtitle), the music unwinds into a long, passacaglia-like passage in which a melodic shape first adumbrated in ‘Parades’ is stated more and more clearly in the winds. Finally, against a drone D in the strings, this melody is stated in its simplest possible and shape and the work closes. Diptych is dedicated to Per Nørgård. Julian Anderson

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