Domination of Blackop. 23 - Diptych op. 23a (1973-74)
Boosey & Hawkes
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Elgar Howarth
Domination of Black, a symphonic poem for large orchestra, was written in 1973-74 and first performed at a Promenade Concert in London, August 1974. Its five movements and two intermezzi make a continuous whole rather like a Schumann piano-cycle on an enormous scale; indeed there is a specific Schumann source discernible far behind this music (some of his Kerner-songs op.35) which in a more general way is a hommage to Austro-German romanticism as seen from the outer space of the later twentieth century.
Two of its movements are detachable and can be played both by themselves and one after the other to make the Diptych. The first, Summer Rain (andante con moto), is a stream of endlessly uncurling melody/harmony in which the formal divisions are merged beneath the continuous gentle demisemiquaver motion. Night Hunt (centrepiece of the complete tone-poem) is a more clear-cut in shape – essentially a gigantic scherzo with two returns of an exuberant trio (and a third as their echo, a Stimme aus der Ferne) and a final slowing-down broadening out into an apotheosis.
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer
Domination of Black was Holloway’s first Prom commission and, though the title is taken from a poem by Wallace Stevens, this large-scale symphonic poem was the last of his early works to be inspired by the music of Schumann. While Holloway took seven of the twelve settings of Julius Kerner, the form and the music of the originals have by now been well absorbed and transformed so as to be virtually unrecognisable. The work is constructed as two pairs of contrasting movements separated by an Intermezzo. After the second pair, the Intermezzo – easily recognised by its sad music for the four horns – returns and the work ends with a slow movement entitled Dawn, whose music dies away to nothing. Overall, the work is another of Holloway’s tributes to the High Romanticism of the nineteenth century. To make the work more accessible, the composer has suggested that the first and third movements – Summer Rain and Night Hunt – may be played separately or together as Diptych.
Repertoire Note by Peter Marchbank