Fall - quintet for horn and string quartet - 2020

duration 23 minutes

1. Distant, Hazy - Suddenly Wild, Unrestrained -:- 2. Very Fast, Hesitant, Jittery -:- 3. Very Simply -:- 4. With Driving Urgency

My old teacher and now friend Robin Holloway wrote a quintet for horn and string quartet (unlike the Mozart formation, using two violins rather than two violas) for our mutual horn playing champion Ondrej Vrabec. He suggested I wrote one, too, potentially to partner Robin's on a CD or in concert. Never being shy to write a work for such a great player, I accepted the challenge.

Fall was inspired by a print by my wife (Marcelle Seabourne). She had developed an original form of monoprinting, using it to produce a series of turbulent abstracts relating to Tennyson's Ring Out, Wild Bells (part of In Memoriam, written on the death of his sister's fiancé). One of these prints was redolent of Renaissance and Baroque portrayals of the Last Judgement and the Casting out of the Fallen Angels - the heavens open and bolt of luminescence floods downwards, with flying forms illuminated as they pass in and out of the beam.

Taking this image I created a four movement work which is characterised by flux and tumult. The opening movement juxaposes quasi-Brucknerian passages of tremolandi-accompanied "mystery-horn" with faster moving clarion calls against a swirling heterophonic ferment. An uneasy conclusion is reached, uncertain of resolution or mood. A scherzo is placed second, full of jittery nervousness and instability. The third movement is a song of farewell (my wife gradually fading away during this time) - tender and melancholy, interrupted twice by a chill breeze (a little reminiscent of Schubert's Der Lindenbaum from Winterreise - incidentally, the poet, Müller's original title was Poems from the posthumous papers of a travelling horn-player). The finale is a driving night-journey, the rider in race to reach safety. This he appears to find, but Fate has other ideas and the movement ends in a heavy-footed, stabbing dance of depair.

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