chamber ensemble of 9 players
Mixed Chamber Ensemble
1111 - 1000 - 2 vln.vla.vlc
Recomposition of Pantomime (1968) commissioned by the Melos Ensemble
First Performance
15.12.78, Arnolfini, Bristol: Lontano/Oliver Knussen

Score (fp) 0-571-55570-5 on sale, parts for hire

Programme Notes

Processionals, completed in December 1978, is an extensive recomposition of a work I wrote for the Melos Ensemble in 1968, Pantomime. A chance rehearing of this piece while sorting through some old tapes proved surprisingly unembarrassing, unlike most other unexpected encounters with one's own past, in that the original, although disastrously misproportioned, seemed in a roundabout way to anticipate some of my then-current compositional preoccupations. I therefore set about pruning and recomposing, adding quite a bit of new music in the process. The revisions emphasise the directional nature of the form, and thereby the very identity of the piece changed - thus Processionals, which has two movements and lasts about twelve minutes. The character of the piece is relatively sombre and abstract; the instrumental writing is more functional than colourful, though not abstemiously so. The wind quintet and string quartet begin with different intervallic and articulative sound-worlds; a long melody continuously passed among the winds, and short, separated notes and chords for the strings. As the movement gains impetus the contrasts become blurred and at the climax the articulations are exchanged: the strings sustain a long chorale, while the woodwinds are allotted the detached 'points'. Both of these textures subsequently serve to accompany a horn melody as the movement unwinds. The instrumental roles are more ambiguous in the second part, which begins fast with very short single-line statements of basic material for pizzicato strings and flute in turn. More parts are added on each reappearance, and at the same time pace is correspondingly slackened until the resulting nine-part polyphony freezes onto a sustained chord, which is subsequently decorated. A passage of fanfare-like woodwind figures initiates the climb back towards the initial tempo, and beyond. Simultaneously, the entire first half of the first movement is recapitulated as a double cantus-firmus on oboe and viola, while the rest of the ensemble is re-grouped with each change of tempo. In the last section a simple antiphony between winds and strings is re-established, with violent chord-exchanges leading towards a final unison.

© Oliver Knussen

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