chamber orchestra (2019)
2 cor anglais—2 bassons—2 horns—timpani—2 percussion—piano—harp—strings (188.8.131.52.4)
LEAF is scored for an ensemble that is fairly unusual (two cor anglais, two bassoons, two horns, percussion, piano, harp and a fairly small compliment of strings), but not unique. In fact, it references the ensemble employed by Haydn in his Symphony No. 22 (The Philosopher), in which pairs of cor anglais and horns are combined with strings and a continuo section. It was that continuo ensemble—which would have consisted of a combination of instruments that included a bassoon, a fortepiano, cellos and double basses—that suggested to me to expand Haydn’s original ensemble to include two bassoons, an array of (often very high pitched) percussion, a piano and a harp. The combination of double reed instruments and piano also appealed to me after hearing a performance of Mozart’s d-minor piano concerto K. 466—a piece in which in this relationship is exquisitely controlled.
While there may be strong Classical antecedents in the scoring of the piece, those sources did not clearly inform the musical material itself. In fact, much of that was suggested to me by the representations of mountains, rivers and forests by Song-dynasty painters, above all those by Guō Xī (郭熙, c. 1020–c. 1090). Their seemingly mobile and multi-dimensional forms, not to mention their subject matter, certainly was an inspiration as I composed the piece. There is a connection between the double-reed instruments associated with mountainous regions of China—especially that of the gyaling—and those that I employ in this piece.
You can buy a score of LEAF from SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music, available here.