The Toccata Beorma
was composed in recognition of an honorary doctorate that Thalben-Ball received from the University of Birmingham in 1972. The Poema
was composed some years later with both pieces published together in 1980. Beorma is generally accepted as the founder of Birmingham, and the city’s name stems from that word, together with the Anglo-Saxon ‘-ingham’ ending. The thematic material of the Poema is derived from a musical code spelling the word ‘Beorma’; this is first heard in imitative entries beginning in the left hand following the hazy opening chord sequence on the organ’s strings. An unusual approach ensues throughout these two contrasting pieces, with harmony and chromatic movement somewhat untypical of the more conservative musical style found in Thalben-Ball’s other works—particularly his two elegies and the Paganini variations for pedals
. The perpetual and repetitive patterns of the bristling Toccata
are distinctly French in style, with further stretching of tonal boundaries, as the rhythmic momentum gathers pace above a slow-moving and persistent pedal part.
from notes by Adam Binks © 2009