Inquietus was written in September 1986 in response to an invitation from the Britten-Pears Foundation to write a work in memory of Peter Pears. I was asked to stay within the instrumentation of Britten’s Nocturne where the tenor is accompanied by an orchestra of strings and seven obbligato instruments (in the event I added an oboe and dropped the timps). This immediately touched off a fundamental image – the accompaniment (whether string-background, featured soloist, or the complete ensemble at the end) deprived of its raison d’être, the singer. So the first half is a succession of wind solos, rising from bassoon up via horn, cor anglais, clarinet, oboe, to flute, each bearing its individual tribute to the absent one. The harp has no solo as such but acts as continuum, almost continuo, binding the texture together from start to finish. Then in the second half, the tutti, the strings also come to the fore; all the original solos are heard again, transformed and surrounded by new material that brings the piece to a crisis of unquietude; after which, a brief coda of resolution and acquiescence in loss.
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer
Although this beautiful and gentle work was commissioned by the Britten/Pears Foundation in memory of Sir Peter Pears, it has a darker side. It takes as its starting-point the orchestration of Britten’s Nocturne, though without the timpani, and with an oboe added to Britten’s cor anglais. One by one, each obbligato instrument steps forward to lament the passing of the great singer before the music dies away after they have all come together in a final tutti.
Repertoire Note by Peter Marchbank