Programme Notes – Ascent (1996)

Commissioned by Liche Musik Tage Uster and first performed by the Uster Festival Wind Orchestra, conducted by Franz Schaffer, Staathofsaal Uster, Switzerland in 1996.

For a Briton responding to a Swiss commission to draw on images of mountains for inspiration may seem a little obvious, but it was in my mind for a long time to make a musical response to Cezanne’s series of paintings of Mont St. Victoire in southern France near Aix-En-Provence. I feel that the cool detacment of Cezanne’s vision, the quiet grandeur, could be expressed well through the sounds of a wind ensemble.

Ascent is mainly calm and impersonal. It begins with off-stage trumpets, and gradually various groups of instruments enter with their own musical ideas. Melodies repeat and overlap in layers without development. After a desolate middle section, with passages for solo instruments, a soft brass chorale marks the final part, where the whole ensemble is heard together for the first time. The ending attempts a musical impression of reaching out, from a great height, towards order, clarity, tonality.