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Berceuse (quartets: clarinet, piano, viola, cello)

by Becky Llewellyn (1989)

Score Sample

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Audio Sample

Performance by Lights New Music Ensemble from the CD Milerum's basket

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Milerum's basket / Becky Llewellyn.

Library shelf no. CD 956 [Available for loan]

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Work Overview

The idea of Berceuse, or 'lullaby' in French came to me when my grandson Jack was born. I remembered the times when I watched the moon set over the sea when breastfeeding my own children. The feeling of this act of intimacy, mother and child, moon and waves, water and milk, seemed a slice of eternity that seared into me.

In trying to compose the essence of this experience, I sought music that ceaselessly rocked back and forth as in a lullaby, but not regularly. It is set in small units of 3/8, then 4/8 time signatures as a way of pulling the ear to the next wave. As the work moves through a cycle of fifths, the four players share melodies and harmonies, including sustained falling seconds. The simplicity of the materials provides scope for each of the musicians to play with their voice rising and falling, as if they were waves of the sea sparkling with moonlight on their crest.

This piece has been performed more than any of my work and contains my favourite instruments. It has been said of the piece, "It makes me homesick for somewhere I've never been."

Originally written for Bb clarinet, violin, cello and piano, Becky rearranged this beautiful piece for string quartet in 2009. As a violin and cello player herself, she is drawn to the magic quality of string ensembles. With the continual changes of tempo, this work would challenge capable secondary school and university quartets, allowing players to work on ensemble and listening as colleagues bring out their singing line.

Work Details

Year: 1989

Instrumentation: Bb clarinet, violin or viola, cello, piano.

Duration: 6 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Commission note: Commissioned by Grahame Dudley for performance by Lights New Music Ensemble.

First performance: by Lights New Music Ensemble — 20 Jul 90. Little Theatre, Adelaide University

Performances of this work

12 May 2018: at Sirius Chamber Ensemble: Songs my Mother Taught Me (Christ Church, Lavender Bay). Featuring Sirius Chamber Ensemble.

22 Aug 99: Pilgrim Church, Flinders St, Adelaide "From the Angels" concert. Featuring Cameo Trio.

1 Jul 92: Hartley Room, Kintore Avenue, University of Adelaide . Featuring Lights New Music Ensemble, Grahame Dudley.

22 Sep 91: Elder Hall, University of Adelaide, Festival Finale, First Composing Women's Festival. Featuring Lights New Music Ensemble, Grahame Dudley.

11 Sep 91: Elder Hall University of Adelaide Mozart Festival. Featuring Grahame Dudley, Lights New Music Ensemble.

23 Dec 90: Live broadcast, Studio 520, ABC Collinswood South Australia. Featuring Lights New Music Ensemble, Grahame Dudley.

13 Oct 90: Yalumba Winery, Gala Concert Barossa Music Festival. Featuring Lights New Music Ensemble, Grahame Dudley.

8 Aug 90: Live broadcast, Studio 520 ABC Studios, Collinswood South Australia. Featuring Lights New Music Ensemble, Grahame Dudley.

20 Jul 90: Little Theatre, Adelaide University. Featuring Lights New Music Ensemble.

20 Jul 90: Elder Hall, University of Adelaide. Featuring Grahame Dudley, Lights New Music Ensemble.

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