What a pleasure to hear my horn trio from four years ago, Orion, given such a bold and committed performance on Monday. The piece is full of counterpoint, which makes for a strong surge of adrenaline when composing and when playing, too, asserting your own part against the impacts and rebounds of the other players’ lines. It was wonderful to hear the clear, impulsive energy of the playing, by three outstanding players in a SCO lunchtime concert at the Perth Concert Hall. Wonderful too to hear Schumann’s fantastic Adagio & Allegro, and Brahms’ Horn Trio played on the natural horn as the composer originally imagined it. Orion will have another outing next February, in Glasgow; I hope I can be there.
I’m looking forward to the first two performances of Orion, a new piece for Horn Trio, written for Alec Frank-Gemmill, Florence Cooke and Daniel Tong. When I wrote the piece, last summer, I became completely drawn into a very intense, driven interplay between the three instruments, each so utterly different in tone and character from the others. This interplay makes the piece hard to put together, but generates a good voltage in the process, I hope. Performances in Ludlow and Derby make a good excuse to visit some wonderful parts of the country, too.
The nightmare in question seems to have haunted Keats not so much at night as during his waking hours, invading and derailing his daily thoughts and moods in a truly obsessive fashion. It’s a sudden vision, in brilliant and unwanted clarity, of the remorselessly savage cycles of the natural world – what Robert Browning later called ‘Nature red in tooth and claw’. I chanced across Keats’ ruminations on these haunting and melancholic thoughts in a verse letter he wrote to his friend J.H Reynolds, and soon found myself wanting to set them to music.
Some time later came a request for a new piece for tenor, horn and piano, a combination firmly stamped with the hallmark of Benjamin Britten, and for that reason initially somewhat intimidating to write for. But once I had found the first musical idea, I was able to forget about this and plunge back into Keats’ nightmare. The piece is called Unbidden Visions, and was written in August 2008.
Music by Jeremy Thurlow