Solitude after dusk
This originally began as an idea for an ensemble of violas, which I realised in 2014 with Martin Outram’s viola ensemble, joined by cellist Emily Rossitter providing both bass accompaniment to the texture and solo interludes.
As an aside, I modelled the overall idea of this short work, not in style but it basic harmonic structure, on the really quite beautiful sounding recording of the second movement, The Interpretation of Dreams, from John Harle’s A Painted Life (2012).
Soon after this version was played through for the first time, I decided that I desperately wanted to arrange the piece for string orchestra, but in such away as to not detract from the richness of the viola version.
I joined the Oare String Orchestra in 2016, in time to take part in the memorable performance of Gordon Jacob’s Concerto for Bassoon, Strings and Percussion (1947) with bassoonist Alexandra Callanan of the Thorne Trio, already having listened to them perform extraordinary works in concert such as Antonin Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings in E major op 22 (1875) and Josef Suk’s Serenade for Strings in E flat op 6 (1892). Inspired by the rich tones of the Oare String Orchestra, I approached the conductor, Peter Aviss, with a string version in order to secure the composition’s first public performance. Since then, Solitude After Dusk has been performed by the Keble String Orchestra in the fantastic Keble College Chapel conducted by Sam Whitby; Elgin String Orchestra at Derby High School conducted by Ed Temple; and at the Holy Rood Church Hall in Barnsley conducted by Jane Benson.
Solitude After Dusk for string orchestra (2016) opens with an ascending C dorian scale shared between the violas and the violins as an introduction to the main theme – a rather dark theme of free and meandering rhythm. There is an element of variation form in this concise work, although it is the accompaniment that is varied rather than the theme, a theme that is actually restated several times but is never completed; it stops abruptly or changes course before it can reach a full conclusion.
The first time that the theme is heard it is only lightly accompanied, and a tonality of G minor is clearly suggested with only a couple of chromatic alterations for extra darkness, until the theme plunges towards contrasting richness. This time the solo cello plays the main theme with a more intense tremelo accompaniment. The next variation leads towards an unexpectedly viscous climax before coming to rest to rest on a soft C major chord. Then the theme is played by all strings except for double bass in unison as softly as possible. For the first time in the piece, the musical material becomes hesitant and is separated by moments of silence. The orchestra and the solo cello exchange and battle between G minor and F minor. The orchestra then plays at its strongest and fullest so far before ending unresolved.