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Programme Notes

The word Sortilèges is French for ‘spells’. This title was chosen because the piece inhabits a musical world of fantasy, with a wide range of contrasts in harmonic colour, register and velocity. The first of the two movements serves as a slow introduction. It sets the scene in ominous chords spread throughout the whole keyboard, enclosing a sudden premonition of future material. The second movement erupts with explosive gestures, galloping bass semi-quavers and dynamic flourishes. These daemonic sounds are contrasted with cantabile phrases and an incantatory scherzando. Tension builds as all this material combines and verges on pandemonium at which point the movement dissolves into waves of pppp semiquavers. After a pause the gentler side of the piece is at last allowed to sing and predominate, and the work appears to be approaching a tranquil conclusion – but there is one remaining spell, for the very end. Sortilèges was commissioned by Paul Crossley with funds provided by the Regional Contemporary Music Circuit. It is dedicated to Yvonne Loriod, who taught Paul Crossley and myself.

© George Benjamin


Palazzo Ducale (Mantua, Italy)

Erik Bertsch


Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln (Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany)

Thibaut Surugue


Good Shepherd-Faith Presbyterian Church (New York City, NY, USA)

Eric Huebner


No Venue (La Grave / La Meije, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France)

Markus Bellheim


Seiji Ozawa Hall (Lenox, MA, USA)