Programme Notes: “At the round earth’s imagined corners,
Blow your trumpets...”
John Donne (1573-1631)
Written between October 2003 and February 2004, in London and the Swiss Alps, this piece was written specially for Fiona Cameron and commissioned by Guildford High School. Tailored specifically to the strengths of the school symphony orchestra, and the talents of the soloist, it has been possible to create a very special work, which is uniquely suited to the forces involved. The piece is in one continuous movement, of around 18 minutes in length, though falling into three main sections - broadly “fast-slow-fast”.
The First Section, (marked “Restive”) begins with a short introduction which very quickly heralds in the trumpet soloist with a declamatory figure which stridently sets the scene. In fact many of the motifs and themes are typically ‘trumpet-like’, from an historical point of view, comprising for example, the rising interval of a fourth(as in the first section) or ranged around two straightforward triad chords(as in the third section), but it is what happens to these ideas which provides the story of the piece. They progressively become changed and corrupted, whilst the underlying harmonies take us on an ever-shifting voyage of discovery - all the while stretching the constantly driving needs of the obsessive solo part. This section ends with an introspective solo cadenza for the trumpet which leads to:
A moody and heavily jazz-influenced Second Section, (marked “Languid & Dark”) which is particularly tailored to the personality of our soloist. A slow hot-house jazz-style is explored by the trumpet, with featured themes being shared by the ‘cellos and bassoon, amongst others. Restrained passion gives way, towards the end, to several outbursts by the trumpet in a semi-improvised vein, and finally an echo of the main theme from the first section.
The orchestra, deciding it has been far too indulgent to the soloist for too long, then takes up the initiative by picking up a faster tempo for the Third Section, (marked “Jaunty, but with Irony”). This is in a slightly unusual ‘lopsided’ rhythm which has an infectious lilt, and the orchestra are allowed to introduce the main theme without the intervention of the trumpet this time. The solo part is then drawn into the fray and joins the theme - but it is not long before we are off into uncharted territory once more, with the trumpet making all the running, and getting various sections of the orchestra (especially the first violins and woodwinds) into deep water, all at a furious pace. Things are brought to a sudden halt by the percussion section, and the trumpet begrudgingly is brought into line, though not without hinting a final rude gesture. The jaunty orchestral theme is then reprised, and we are led to a final triumphant coda, with the trumpet echoing the very opening declamatory figure for the final time.