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Winter, Heartache and Transfiguration

This piece had an interesting genesis. At the time (2014), I was

really into composing competitions. This piece was written for

a competition run by a Sydney classical music radio station,

Fine Music, in conjunction with the Willoughby Symphony


In fact, the piece I entered is quite different to its final form now. The requirements were violin solo with string orchestra. I adored the Sibelius violin concerto, and the opening 'Winter' section of this piece was directly inspired by the chilling cold opening of the Sibelius. 

I ran into a few problems when first writing this piece. Firstly, the scale

of the piece seemed to overblow the string orchestra requirement; I've

remedied this now with single winds and brass. Secondly, I really

wanted a fugue in the middle, but I was running out of time,

so the best 'fugue' I could manage was a rather

lame fugal exposition - the three voices entered, but then

the fugue immediately disintegrated. The long, rather

complicated fugal subject in B flat minor, alternating between minor and octatonic

modes, also barred me from going too far. In any case, I've since gained more experience

and skill, and I'm proud to have extended this into a proper fugue in 2017, in accordance

with my original vision, which you can hear in the performance above.

A rough synopsis is as follows: I imagine a protagonist (solo violin) lost in a desolate, snowy winter, struggling to

overcome their desolation. The first section sets the scene and tells the wintery story; then follows a rousing call to

action, like a sudden thunderstorm (the entry of percussion); a struggle (the fugue); a memory of distant love as an

abandonment of the struggle; and finally a transformation as the snow melts away with the first rays of sunlight

to break through the clouds. 

You might notice that after the fugue, the string section plays a vigorous, strict two-part canon

while the solo violin foreshadows the theme from the next, slow section (which I think of as the 'love-memory' theme). This happens twice, before the new section finally enters and dispels the vigour and struggle of the preceding contrapuntal madness. It is the solo violin saying 'I've had enough fighting...' and recalling the passion of its past. 

I'd like to dearly thank Prof. Ole Bohn, who played the violin solo, and the Voces Caelestium Charity Orchestra, whom I conducted for the above performance in VC's 5th Charity Concert. 

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