Inside a Magical Mind Interview with Bella Tromba's Jo Harris
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Classical Music Magazine Interview with Katy Wright
A childhood friend was behind Peter Longworth’s new commission for the Aurea Quartet. Throughout the ensemble’s residency at St John’s, Smith Square, each performer has been exploring his or her roots; Christine Anderson turned to Longworth when it was her turn. ‘Christine and I have known each other for a very long time because we played in the National Children’s Orchestra of Scotland, and then in the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland – so for well over ten years. It’s nice that I get to work with her as a composer.’
Anderson told Longworth that she wanted something which reflected Scotland. The composer took inspiration from the folklore which had captivated him as a child: ‘One of the things that came to mind quite early was a place I used to go walking a lot; there’s this legend that in the mountain behind this loch there’s a cave where goblins would have their meetings. I also read a compendium of fairies created by a minister in the 1600s. Both these things were obviously on my mind, but the notes themselves suggest where they want to go when I start writing, which is when it gets a little more abstract.’
Literature or art might provide the stimulus for a piece, but the attention soon turns to the notes themselves. In this case, these notes were derived from the practice of Scottish fiddle playing: ‘When I was working out my harmonies, I worked them out around the open strings in terms of intervals. A lot of those early sketches were discarded, but the foundation remained.’
The influence of folk music can also be seen on the structure of the piece: it unfolds as a gradual accelerando in a manner reminiscent of a Scottish reel. ‘It starts in quite a tranquil way, with a solo viola – which is a nice way of recognising that this is exploring Christine’s musical roots. It gradually moves through the gears, getting faster and faster. It’s quite episodic and there’s a lot of highly energetic, quirky and capricious material which seems almost like a stream of consciousness. This is broken up by periods of stasis, which themselves are interrupted by outbursts, and then the flow of the music resumes. It ends by fusing a pizzicato idea from the middle of the piece with rapid toccata-like writing, so the piece ends on a high.’
Fast music seems to be something of a signature for Longworth of late: ‘I’ve noticed that I’ve been writing a lot of it recently. It’s not been a conscious decision, and I find it both challenging and rewarding; having material in my pieces which really drives forwards has become really important to me.
Q&A with Mia Roberts of the London Philharmonic Orchestra
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Q&A with Margaret Chrystall of the Inverness Courier
Q: Musical director of the Mahler Players Tomas Leakey has been talking about your new commission piece for the latest Mahler In Miniature concerts. It’s called Pan’s Caprice, so how did the project come about?
Peter: Tom and I met many years ago when we were both brass players in the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland. Tom was a trombonist and I was a trumpet player so we shared a lot of rehearsal time and in these situations a lot of very strong friendships are formed. Some of my oldest friends are from that time. Tom got in touch because he has now done a few concerts with the Mahler Players that have gone really well and I think he just wanted to expand the repertoire and get a new piece commissioned and I’m happy that he thought of me for it and I said "Yes!" immediately.
Q: How did you approach writing the piece that we will hear the Mahler Players perform in Dornoch, Inverness and Nairn this week?
Peter: Tom asked me and from there we started talking about what the piece might be. With every piece you are working with specific limitations for example with the piece for Tom I knew the specific number of instruments in the ensemble. Always when you are writing a new piece you are working with that particular project's "limitations" – though I don’t mean that in a negative sense. So the piece itself came about because Tomas told me about some of the other pieces that were going to be in the programme. One of them is a piece by Britten which has a tarantella in it and I had been wanting to write a tarantella myself for quite a while. So I thought it might be quite a nice opportunity to put these two tarantellas together in the same concert! That’s how I started out, but the piece didn’t end up being a tarantella, though there are elements of that in it, but also elements of lots of other things as well. But that was my very early starting point.