Programme Notes – In Solitude, For Company

The title of this 18-minute work is taken from a poem: Lauds which forms a part of Horae Canonicae by W H Auden, a group of poems referring to fixed times for the monastic hours of prayer, but really an extended meditation on the events of Good Friday. Lauds can be read as a description of a village community, and the ambiguous refrain In Solitude, For Company suggests both aloneness and the need for others.

The work starts with two off stage trumpets playing in consecutive fifths answered by a distant solo oboe. Other pungent ideas announce themselves in various colours, repeating themselves in the hope of connectivity. A dense texture is reached before the solo oboe heralds a new keening melody in unison woodwind over a hypnotic ostinato, which slowly descends to the depths of bass clarinet and contra bassoon. At its darkest point a distant piano is heard, as if from the deepest recesses of the memory.

A chaotic passage follows reshuffling the insistent motifs from the first part before it dissolves into a reprise of the unison woodwind melody under which a brass chorale marked nobilmente emerges. At the climax the distant trumpets and oboe solo return, and eventually everything is swallowed up by the violins, which punctuated by cymbal crashes end the work ecstatically.

In Solitude, For Company started out as Awakening commissioned by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in 2006. This drastically revised version was premiered by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in January 2016 conducted by Clark Rundell.  It is dedicated to my wife Elizabeth.