strings (min. 86442)
Facsimile score 0-571-50741-7 on sale, parts for hire
Introit, for two trumpets and strings, was composed in 1981 for a concert by the English Chamber Orchestra that was to have taken place in Gloucester Cathedral, and it was designed very much as an occasional piece for that particular concert. In fact the concert didn’t happen, and the first performance was given some months later in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor; but it was the originally planned concert that determined the character of my piece. As the title implies, Introit was intended to open the concert. It begins and ends on C – and for much of the time the note C is present as a sustained pedal in the bass. This was for two reasons: I discovered that the bell that strikes the hours in Gloucester Cathedral, which is a famous old bell called ‘Great Peter’, is pitched in C. So I imagined that, when the concert began, as it was supposed to, at 8pm, you might hear the bell strike C and then my piece would begin. The bell-like motif in the pizzicato double basses immediately after the start was an extension of this idea. In addition, the last work in the concert was to have been the Tippett Double Concerto, which ends in C, so the concert would begin and end in the same key. The concert was to have been entirely of English music – Purcell, Vaughan Williams and Tippett – and Introit is consciously an ‘English’ piece, in which I paid some homage to those composers in particular. It was specifically designed for a resonant cathedral acoustic, and so it’s slow-moving, with florid upper parts over a static bass. I wanted too to find some kind of musical equivalent to Gothic architecture, with its elaborately decorated surfaces. The two trumpets don’t enter until quite near the end of the piece. I imagined them as angel musicians, like those in the angel choir at Lincoln Cathedral. Trumpet players tend to be rather amused when they discover this. I hoped that they might play from on high and some distance apart, though this has not always proved practicable. At the very end the trumpets answer each other antiphonally, as earlier the two solo cellos have done to the same music. Here I was influenced by the kind of antiphonal writing you get in Venetian music, for instance the duet for two tenors near the end of Monteverdi’s Vespers. The writing for strings is much divided, with many of the players given solo parts.
© David Matthews