Instrumentation – 2000 – strings


Score and parts for hire

Programme Notes

Aubade began on a trip to Australia in September 2000. While staying with friends near Canberra, I wrote down the song of their resident magpie, which they had named Munro. Australian magpies, unlike their British counterparts, have melodious songs, and Munro's was outstanding. Magpies are one of several Australian bird species which sing diatonically. When a few weeks later I was staying with some other friends in northern New South Wales, I noted three more songs, two of them distinctively melodic. The Koel, an Australian cuckoo, sings a major third like the European cuckoo, but rising instead of falling - in other words upside down, as one might expect from an Australian bird! Koels usually begin with a minor third, rising to the major, then a fourth and sometimes higher. The Pied Butcherbird sings three notes, typically a falling major second followed, most unusually, by a rising augmented fourth. Lastly, the Eastern Whipbird has a crescendoing high note followed by a whip-crack - an extraordinary sound. These simple and striking motifs are in contrast to the elaborate songs that Messiaen notated and included in his music - too complex and pedantic for my taste. I prefer Beethoven's stylized nightingale, or Mahler's cuckoo call in his First Symphony which he used motivically. The four bird songs appear in the opening, slow section of Aubade, which is a little dawn chorus. The first eight notes of the initial long violin melody are Munro's actual song, the remainder a development of it. Then come the three other bird songs, followed by a more elaborate reprise of the violin melody on solo cello. There follows a dance for the morning, initiated by the Koel's song. Its central episode refers to the other songs. The dance subsides into a section marked 'tranquillo', based on the violin melody, which reaches an expressive climax. The coda returns to the tempo of the opening, and includes a further development of Munro's own song. Aubade was commissioned by the English Chamber Orchestra and Music Society to celebrate their fortieth anniversary. The first performance was given by the English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Shuntaro Sato, in the Barbican Hall, London, on 14 March 2001. It is scored for oboe, cor anglais, two horns and strings and lasts about 11 minutes.

© DM


Zaryadye Hall (Moscow, Russian Federation)

Alexander Walker/Musica Viva


No Venue (Borås, Sweden)

Boras Symphony Orchestra/Joachim Gustafsson


Cond. Nicholas Cleobury

St John's Church, Waterloo (London, United Kingdom)

Southbank Sinfonia


St Andrew's Church (Presteigne, Wales, United Kingdom)

George Vass/Presteigne Festival Orchestra


No Venue (London, United Kingdom)

George Vass/Orchestra Nova