Circling Canopy of Night, The


chamber ensemble of 16 players
Mixed Chamber Ensemble
1(=picc+bfl).1(=sop.rec+ca).2(I=Ebl.II=bcl).ssax - hn - perc(3): vib/2 susp.cym/2 conga/bongo+djembe/BD/2 wdbl/2 tgl/tam-t/mar/cyms/mcas/tam-t/2 timp/glsp/crot/t.bells harp - pno - cel - vln.vla.vlc.db
Commissioned jointly by Faber Music Ltd for its Millennium Series (Kenneth Hesketh was nominated by Oliver Knussen), and by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group Sound Investment scheme, with assistance from the following Sound Investors: Stephen Johnson & Deborah Richardson, Colin Matthews, Adam Watson & Jeremy Lindon, Philippa Wright.
First Performance
21.11.99, UK, CBSO Centre, Birmingham: Birmingham Contemporary Music Group/Sir Simon Rattle

Score 0-571-52019-7 on sale, parts for hire

Programme Notes

The Circling Canopy of Night is scored for sixteen players, the idea of which was suggested by various texts on the subject of the medieval concept of the universe. According to this concept, the medieval universe was constructed vertically, top to bottom, with the earth as the lowest point and the Empyrean as the highest. Whereas our view of the universe is expanding, cold, dark, infinite, theirs was ordered, fixed, logical and full of light. The work falls into the following sections (which are played without a break): Primum mobile The Regions of the Air Stellatum (i) Infortuna major Stellatum (ii) Fortuna minor Stellatum (iii) Mercurius Ascendit in Caelum The first section presents much of the material used throughout the whole piece. Three-part polyphony and textures, as well as various rhythmic doubles, abound. In fact three is a potent number in the work, not only in overall proportions but in the structure of sub-sections; a thrice returning horn theme (progressively more hidden and truncated on each reappearance) in ‘Regions of the Air’, for example, divides the structure into three varied refrains and two subsidiary sections. Another example is the conclusion of the entire piece, which is a series of nine repetitions of a three-note chord heard on bells, vibraphone and piano. The Circling Canopy of Night completes a trilogy of works entitled Trinita, the other pieces being Theatrum and Torturous Instruments. The Circling Canopy of Night was commissioned jointly by Faber Music for its Millennium Series and by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. This work received its initial performances in Birmingham and Paris in November 1999 under Sir Simon Rattle, and in London in May 2000 under Oliver Knussen. KH

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