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Peacock Pie 'Suite for string orchestra and piano'


So many British composers from the earlier part of the twentieth century have found the simple children’s verse of Walter de la Mare an inspiration for music, notably in the period immediately after the nightmare of 1914/18. De la Mare’s archetypal collection, Peacock Pie: a book of rhymes, from which Gibbs takes his title, first appeared in 1913. Each of the three movements of Gibbs’s work takes its title and mood from the de la Mare poem standing at the head of the music. Thus the first movement, ‘The Huntsmen’:

Three jolly gentlemen,
In coats of red,
Rode their horses
Up to bed.

The contrast from the brilliance of ‘The Huntsmen’ to ‘The Sunken Garden’ is achieved by using muted strings throughout, with a pianissimo piano part consisting almost entirely of a soft low E in the left hand playing across the bar.

Speak not – whisper not;
Here bloweth thyme and bergamot

This time the words come from de la Mare’s 1918 collection, Motley and Other Poems.

For the third movement ‘The Ride-by-Nights’ we are back with Peacock Pie in Gibbs’s favourite galloping 6/8 time.

Up on their brooms their Witches stream,
Crooked and black in the crescent’s gleam;
One foot high, and one foot low,
Bearded, cloaked, and cowled, they go.

There is, however, nothing spooky or fearsome about these witches; they are strictly of the nursery, and a nursery remembered through nostalgic adult eyes.

from notes by Lewis Foreman © 2002


Peacock Pie
CDA67316Archive Service


Movement 1: The Huntsmen: Allegro
Movement 2: The Sunken Garden: Tranquillo ma non troppo lento
Movement 3: The Ride-by-Nights: Con brio

Track-specific metadata for CDA67316 track 14

The Huntsmen: Allegro
Recording date
27 July 2001
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Peacock Pie (CDA67316)
    Disc 1 Track 14
    Release date: March 2002
    Deletion date: May 2010
    Archive Service
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