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Programme Notes – Awakening (2005-6)

The initial impulse to write Awakening came from a short poem by W.H. Auden: Lauds depicting a village community, which includes the refrain: In Solitude, for company. This piece explores the relationship between solitude and company, with groups of instruments reflecting the loneliness of the human condition, and the essential desire for companionship. Throughout the work various ideas see the light of day, sometimes interacting with each other, at other times remaining aloof.

Two off stage trumpets playing in consecutive fifths start the work answered by a distant solo oboe. Other short motifs emerge, simply repeating themselves in the hope of communication. A dense texture is achieved before it dissolves into a sombre brass chorale. What follows is a shimmering woodland Allegro: the youthful exuberance of the texture not quite succeeding in masking something much more ominous in the quiet depths of the trombones. This idyll is rudely cut off by an arrogant  solo horn, which, in turn reaches a maximum point of tension, leading to a long descending passage for cor anglais and bassoons over a hypnotic off stage ostinato. At the darkest point a distant solo piano sounds as if from the deepest recesses of the memory.

The main fast music of the piece follows, rural becomes urban, soft becomes hard, the dream becomes a nightmare. An undoubted exhilaration takes over and the first fortissimo climax of the piece is reached with chaotic textures that fight for attention.

A frozen passage for strings leads to a restatement of the cor anglais melody, which is joined by the earlier brass chorale and rushing string figuration. This leads to a joyous climax, a moment of truth that quickly dies away leaving the off stage trumpets and solo oboe to continue on their way as if they had never been silenced. The final luminous string chord perhaps hints at a sense of community that the piece has been striving for over the previous twenty-five minutes.

Awakening is in one continuous movement and is dedicated to my wife Elizabeth.