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Gwyn Pritchard: Madrigal
flute/piccolo/alto, oboe/cor anglais, clarinet/bass, percussion, harp (1987/8) 

Programme note from the 1st performance at The Michael Tippett Centre, Bath; 1989 

A programme note, whilst endeavouring to be helpful (usually by providing a kind of navigational chart, directing the listener to whatever remote or exotic musical landscape the writer believes is to be found in a piece of music) is all too often successful; the problem being that when we get there the landscape frequently seems far less exotic than the programme note had led us to anticipate.  But perhaps all that effort spent in keeping to such precise coordinates, instead of merely listening, is the very reason for our disappointment - a disheartening thought for the writer of programme notes, especially when it must be written by the composer himself! 

Another, and probably more important, problem is to which of many shores should the listener be directed? Perhaps, without steerage he or she will, swept along by a mixture of insight, intuition and accident, discover some uncharted regions. This composer has been struck by a remarkable similarity between the voyages undertaken when listening to music, and when writing it.  When setting out (and long before it had a name) Madrigal was intended to be primarily an exploration of the many forms of musical motion or flow; and perhaps it is about just that.  But en route (or rather off route!) it seemed to lead to some quite unexpected places - some quite close to sixteenth century vocal forms.  This was an experience not to be missed; so a programme note denying the listener the opportunity of a similar undertaking, by pointing to specific and identifiable landmarks, seems a little unfair.  Whatever the merits or demerits of a piece of music assumed by its creator, we all know that his word can never be the last word on the matter; perhaps it shouldn't be the first either!!


Programme note from performance at The Turner Sims concert Hall, Southampton; 1989

Having written a number of pieces which were concerned with ideas requiring fluid and continuous forms, I deliberately set out to compose a work in which sectionalisation would play  an important part. Madrigal consists of nine clear sections: Chorale 1, Verse 1, Solo 1 (clarinet), Chorale 2, Verse 2, Solo 2 (cor anglais), Solo 3 (piccolo), Verse 3, Chorale 3. 

Such  a design obviously suggests a static, inorganic piece (however dynamic the music within these sections may be), and in consequence I decided to impose on myself the rigorous discipline of deriving all three Verse sections from exactly the same material. The Chorale sections serve to freeze the motion, and the Solos (which are accompanied by harp and percussion) to liberate it from the constraints imposed in the Verses.

Both the formal design and the detailed interacting of the wind  parts suggest certain  parallels with late sixteenth century madrigals, as does the contrast between complex polyphony and harmonic passages.  

Madrigal  was written  for Uroboros Ensemble  in 1988 and is dedicated "To my daughters, Alwynne and Victoria".  

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