Ludi - Partita for Orchestra
I - Launch
II - Races
III - Lull
IV - Down to the wire
Duration: 10 mins
When I was asked by the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland to write a new piece celebrating Glasgow's hosting of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, my first thought was that I should write a work that recreated the spirit of the games within the orchestra.
The work is structured in four short movements. Launch begins with a brief burst of notes from the depths of the orchestra, before the sounding of a referee's whistle sets the entire work in motion. This opening movement is ceremonial in tone and - against a backdrop of ethereal tintinnabulations - juxtaposes a hopeful melody with throbbing pulses in the lower instruments of the orchestra, leading to a climax. In Races, busier, more energetic material is frequently interrupted by loud stabs played by the whole orchestra - rather like the marking of laps! We then move into a fast, syncopated and almost Big Band-esque texture (via a calm oasis) before the music comes to an unexpectedly gentle close. This movement is followed by a meditative interlude, entitled Lull, which imagines a hushed (and perhaps slightly tired) crowd amusing themselves by performing Mexican Waves to break the general stillness of the atmosphere. The musical evocations of these waves then give way to a solo violin, wistfully recalling the melody of the opening movement. In the work's final movement, Down to the wire, the pace of the music picks up again. After a jubilant introduction we hear another series of 'musical races', before a strident melody sounds over edgy rhythms that are passed rapidly around the orchestra. Just as a referee's whistle was heard in the opening bars of the first movement to signal a beginning, it sounds again at the end of this melody; heralding the conclusion of the piece and suspending the music almost in mid-air, before the work ends not with a shout but with a whisper, the notes disappearing into the upper reaches of the orchestra.
Both the work's title and subtitle are related to the sporting ideas that lie behind the music. Ludi is the Latin word for 'Games', whilst Partita - as well as meaning 'Suite' - is the Italian word for 'match'; a double meaning that seemed somewhat appropriate.