Night prelude : for mixed instrumental sextet
by Paul Stanhope (1997)
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Library shelf no. CD 510 [Available for loan]
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Images of insect sounds and birdcalls; midnight shadows at odd angles to moonlight; deathly silences and a danse macabre - these are all images which came to mind when writing this piece. The imagery of night is full of richness and strangeness, and has been something of a fascination of mine which began with a trio for flute, clarinet and piano entitled The Taste of Midnight, written in 1993. Night Prelude was composed during a period of study at the University of York in January and February of 1997. The bitterly cold climate and the starkness of the Yorkshire winter, as well as the stimulation provided by new surroundings, prompted me to write a piece which is something of a stylistic departure from my previous works. Much of the piece was written late at night; I became aware of the influence of time and place on its sound-world.
This single-movement piece contains six sections, signposted by changes of mood and instrumentation. The opening and closing material is extremely quiet, and the texture is transparent. Two soloistic sections, firstly for cello and later for alto flute and clarinet, are divided in turn by spiky dance sections.
These ensemble passages, in the tradition of the danse macabre provide much of the momentum that drives the piece. The second appearance of the dance music sees the previously homogenous material become more fragmented and unhinged: the insect textures transform into clockwork passages, suggesting the deceptiveness of time at night. Here the registers of the instruments are stratified to their high extremes, striving for an intensity which can only be relieved by giving-way to the original material.
Instrumentation: Flute/alto flute/piccolo, clarinet in B flat, violin, cello, percussion (1 player), piano.
Duration: 12 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — Professional new music ensemble or equivalent
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