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Boosey & Hawkes

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


World Premiere
The Venue, Leeds
Britten Sinfonia
Composer's Notes

Traditionally it's four temperaments, of course. But these five movements do not depict the traditional ‘humours’ (choleric, phlegmatic, sanguine, melancholic) of medieval humanism (though perhaps a couple overlap). Rather, they are five states of mind, evoking human moods shared in varying mixes and proportions by everybody.

I hope I won't be accused of coyness in not revealing them explicitly! I'm relying on the music itself to suggest the individual temperaments contained within. Which is perhaps a hangover from another piece written at the same time as this wind quintet (Summer 2007): settings for six-part vocal consort of riddles, conundrums, teases, that deliberately doesn't provide answers.

The overall shape, however, is:

1: an aggressive, turbulent opener, building up through complex polymetric superimpositions to a spasmodic climax; whose last gasp punctuates the first strains of

2: a folksong/ballad number, the (mainly unaccompanied) melody passing from french horn to english horn, and back; linking to

3: slow tranquil colour-chord changes, gradually animating and separating out then coagulating again into stillness.

4: a scherzo whose main idea, thanks to the doublings possible within the five players, manages to give the impression/illusion of eight (in order: clarinet,horn, bassoon, english horn, flute, bass-clarinet, oboe, piccolo) before the final gossamer-lite free-for-all.

5: long gently-dissonant lines of 2, 3, 4, 5-part counterpoint; the highly irregular phrase-lengths melted into smooth lyric continuity.

© Robin Holloway, January 2008

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

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