Mnemonic Suite Op21
Gravis In 5/4 time, with a questioning start, this
Prelude reflects on the title’s implications of ‘serious,
deep, heavy’. A close canon at half a note’s distance
sense of weight to the texture, as it grows darker and winds down
to its profound last chord.
Tristis In 3/4 time, this Aria has an improvisatory,
melodic, heart-felt quality. A counter-melody weaves upwards during
the central portion, before the music returns
to its initial simplicity.
Mysticus This Reflection in 11/8 time comprises whispy
phrases and harmonies, reaching up ever higher. The pedal’s
lowest note marks the pivotal point in this palindrome. The six
Endings of Tone III appear together with their retrogrades, thus
in the mirror image they are heard again. There is perhaps a hint
of distant bells in this intangible music.
Harmonicus In 3/4 time, the quasi-serialist ground
bass gradually emerges while harmonic minor scales pace up and
down. After a while, Tone IV appears in canonic form. The registration
and harmony combine to render this Passacaglia a very personal
expression of anxiety.
Laetus This longest of the pieces is a joyous Toccata
in 5/8 time, complete with brief middle section, recapitulation,
and coda. With an almost minimalist quality, scintillating semiquavers
outline a falling minor third, derived from the Endings of Tone
V, while sonorous pedals thunder out the complete Tone.
Devotus In this hauntingly solemn Fugue in 3/4 time,
much of the material is inverted in the second half. Tone VI appears
as a tenor solo played by the pedals.
Angelicus The shortest piece of all, this delicate
miniature Scherzo in 7/16 time returns to its first part after
a middle section. The effervescent semiquavers may evoke an image
of chasing tails or wings!
Perfectus Also in 7/16 time, this Finale bears some
allegiance to late Widor. Motivic drive and thematic complexity
imbue it with a sinuous energy. Perfect fourths and fifths are
prominent, and bring the music to its conclusion.
Mediaeval monastic commentators assigned each note, or Tonus
with a particular Latin name, characterizing their very different
moods, appropriate to various styles and subjects in the Psalter.
This Suite was composed between July and November 2012, though
parts of Perfectus had been gestating since 2011, and minor revisions
continued till early 2013. The original aim was to create an Aide-mémoire
for the eight Psalm Tones, as given in ‘Briggs and Frere’
1902 edition. Each piece presents the entire Psalm Tone, with
all its Endings: for example, only one Ending in Tone VI (Devotus)
but nine in Tone IV (Harmonicus).
With an average duration of 2 minutes, and their degree of motivic
interrelation, these pieces are performed ideally as an entire
Suite (lasting approximately 18 minutes), but alternatively in
groups, pairs, or even singly. They can all be played on an instrument
of two manuals and pedals, and there is no necessity for registration
changes within each piece.
Duration: about 18 minutes
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