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Holloway, RobinFourth Idyll op. 102 (2006-07) 23'
for small orchestra

Abbreviations (PDF).

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
The Swan, High Wycombe
City of London Sinfonia / Richard Hickox

Composer's Notes  
Idyll suggests a mood rather than gives a genre and a form: in general light, playful, lyrical; not strenuous physically or intellectually; and perhaps with a hint of pastoral. I’ve written five such pieces down the decades. They include, as well as the first three actually so-called, an Ode (for Peter Pears’ 60th birthday) and an Inquietus (on his death ten years later): small-scale, intimate, avoiding the Big Statement: in a word, idyllic.

This Fourth is rather more elaborate than its predecessors. Some of the material goes back a few years; it found its proper place when sketching out the whole in the summer of 2006. These sketched were worked up and scored in the ensuing autumn. The result is a mosaic of many interwoven sections, playing continuously.

The opening sets out the main melodic idea in a paragraph of broad slow harmony, which fades into the first of three fast sketches. Each one will be successively quicker: this first is foursquare, vigorous, chunky – a sort of English hoe-down. After climaxing it quietens into gentle two-part textures – the piece’s core-material in quintessential form – prelude to a sequence of miniature solos for the winds of the small orchestra: 2nd bassoon, 2nd clarinet, cor anglais, 2nd flute; 2nd horn answered by 2nd trumpet, first horn answered by first trumpet.

A link passage from the opening music leads into the second fast stretch, alla valse. Then a fragment of the same linking music leads to an enhanced return of the woodwind solos, now given to the first players rather than the second – same order, bassoon, clarinet, oboe (not cor anglais), flute: then the four conversing brass instruments as before. Four bars of link introduce the third and fastest fast stretch, a scherzo whose first half is fleet, spiky, transparent, alternating winds with strings: then in its second half thickening up and gradually incorporating the entire forces to make out of the formerly miniature solo wind fragments a long arc of burgeoning melodic continuity.

It climaxes on a fully-scored return of the opening-and-link music, declining into the closing section, a Recitative that takes the orchestra, mostly in unison, from its bottom to its top, where the core-idea is sung out strongly and finally. After this, eight bars of cadencing chords give the piece’s harmony in a nutshell.

If all this sounds a bit technical and/or difficult to follow, I’d say – don’t bother! Just sit back and listen! If the music doesn’t explain itself as it sounds, I’ve not done my job!

Robin Holloway March 2007

Reproduction Rights:
This programme note may be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer.

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