Sonata Notturna


cello and string orchestra
String Orchestra, Cello and Orchestra
Commissioned by the 1985 King's Lynn Festival with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain
First Performance
30.5.1986, Fermoy Centre, King's Lynn, UK: Alexander Baillie/Peterborough String Orchestra

Score 0571510302 on sale, parts for hire

Programme Notes

This work, which was written in Washington in the summer of 1985, is my first essay in the (quasi) concerto form. It is cast in a single movement, subdivided into four clearly defined sections: Intrada, Canto, Cadenza, Capriccio. By far the most important sections are the Canto and Capricco (the Intrada and Cadenza serving as introductions to them respectively), so that the overall shape of the piece is really bipartite, thus clearly limiting it with the Introduction & Allegro form. It is also very much a solo with accompaniment; the soloist introduces all the major material, and is strongly differentiated from the background by having the orchestra united throughout. In general, I would describe the mood of the piece as lyric, dramatic and fantastic. The Intrada opens with a unison held D in the orchestra punctuated by repeated Ds from the soloist. The sustained D becomes blurred by semitones while the solo cello introduces some of the manner – if not quite the material – of both the Canto and the Capriccio. The sustained D leads straight into the Canto, introduced by the soloist with a somewhat lamenting melody. A secondary idea featuring repeated chords in the orchestra and expressive lines from the soloist leads to the climax, which dies down and gives way to the unaccompanied Cadenza. This in turn leads in, via the repeated Ds of the Intrada, to the final Capricco. This is very fast and agile, and is perhaps the section that most obviously relates to the work’s title. A second very simple song-like idea is introduced by the soloist and then taken up by the violas. Further material is provided by some rather dramatic confrontations between soloist and orchestra, until about two-thirds of the way through all is suddenly stilled by a backward glance to the work and manner of the earlier Canto. Momentum is regained, and the work ends with the soloist playing the opening Canto melody over the running figuration of the Capriccio in the orchestra. After a passionate climax the music disintegrates into silence, the soloist withdrawing even higher through climbing octaves repetition of the opening D. Nicholas Maw, November 1988

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'Sonata Notturna' reviews

'… a great many remarkable qualities … it contains numerous precise and beautiful images.' The Times (Paul Griffiths), 22 September 1986 Read more

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