Seraph is a concertino for trumpet and strings, containing three short movements. The first movement is fast, and based on two main ideas. Firstly we hear brusque, angular chords accompanying a jaunty trumpet melody which contains dotted rhythms, running semiquavers and fast repeated notes. The second idea is more lyrical, incorporating rising 4ths and falling 3rds.
The second movement, an Adagio, has its leading cantabile melodic material on solo violin or tutti strings, while the solo trumpet seems to ruminate introspectively with oppositional and contrary lines. The movement subsides in a quasi-improvisatory duet between solo trumpet and violin.
The last movement, marcato e ritmico, is based on a closely worked canonic idea, which first appears on low strings, giving a somewhat ‘ungainly’ sensation at the outset, and a more fulsome arching melody marked cantabile e sonore. The trumpet part is peppered with little military fanfares. Eventually the music settles down to a cadenza-like passage, where the soloist is accompanied by tremolando strings, before the principal canonic theme is recapitulated on the violins and violas.
A seraph is a celestial being or angel, usually and traditionally associated with trumpets. This work is dedicated to Alison Balsom.
James MacMillan, 2011
This programme note may be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer.