First Performance
June 1996: Paris, France: Christopher Taylor

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Programme Notes
Turning was written at the Tanglewood Music Center in 1995, where I studied with Henri Dutilleux. The work is dedicated to him and to Christopher Taylor, who premiered the work in Paris in June 1996 and who edited the work for this publication. Turning is written in theme and variations form, opening with a simple song-hymn in the key of B major. The hymn is followed by a pentatonic echo in the piano¹s high register, a mirror of my musical consciousness‹East vs. West‹when I returned from studying Lobi gyil (xylophone) music in Ghana. In "Nightmares and Chickens," the first variation, the hymn is pecked out, culminating in a schizoid frenzy of pointillistic clucking, and eventually evaporating into the top register of the piano. "Kowië at Dawn," the second variation, is a portrait of a small village in Northwest Ghana. It begins with the sound of distant bells, but soon the town wakes and is drawn into a lively dance, evocative of gyil music. The third variation "Passage," harmonizes the pentatonic theme chromatically, and the hymn emerges tinged with a gospel slant. In the fourth variation, "Carnaval Noir," latin music mixes with the occasional ragtime twist. The carnival segues into the coda, in which an inverted rendition of the hymn returns in the top registers of the piano. The pentatonic echo returns as the work spirals backwards into a hazy reflection of the opening song. DB

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'Turning' reviews

‘Turning is a major piano work, about 20 minutes long. On the surface it looks like another set of character pieces, but in fact it’s also a set of variations on its little pseudo-hymn tune. And its grander dimensions allow Bermel to combine more diverse elements … which shows him off to greatest strength.’ Fanfare (Robert Carl), February 2003 Read more

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