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My Septet was written in response to a commission from Antony Griew for a work in honour of his parents. There was no specific brief, though I did talk with Antony about the family and the characteristics of his parents. He mentioned that he was fond of the flute; so it was decided that this instrument would be included, and shortly after, we agreed on the same ensemble as the famous Introduction and Allegro by Ravel. A first version of the piece was completed for a private performance for family and friends at Compton Verney, Warwickshire on 17 May 2008. I subsequently revised the work in November and December of the same year.

Because I didn’t know David and Ann Griew personally, I decided that the best approach would be that the piece should honour parents in general, and I opted for a musical structure that would reflect this. A series of diatonic chords characterised by a consistent stepwise descending movement are common to the work as a whole. They are, as it were, the DNA of the piece, and the variations that derive from them display the family likenesses. In the first version of the piece, the chords were not heard, but in the process of revision, I decided to include them. They are heard at the outset replacing a prelude (that was in the earlier version) and again at the end.

The opening statement of the chordal sequence is very short, chorale-like in nature. Much of the other music around the central Calmo is lively and very rhythmic and the harp part is virtuosic.

Many pieces of music have ‘hidden’ mottos built around letters and initials. The opportunity to ‘encrypt’ the initials of his Antony, his wife Dot and parents David and Ann Griew—an AG/DG motif in musical terms—seemed too good to miss. This tribute and simultaneous thanks to the commissioner can be heard at the end of the Largo movement. After a loud climax the music dies away to a series of quiet chords very high up on the string instruments. Immediately after, the motif can be heard on solo violin answered by the flute.

from notes by John Metcalf © 2009


Metcalf: Paths of Song
Studio Master: SIGCD203Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

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