Partita Narrativa Op23
Written in 2017, ‘Partita Narrativa’ in B Op.23 follows
‘Partita Espressiva’ in A Op.22 and ‘Partita
penultima' in Bb Op.24.
Op.22 stays close to César Franck’s spirit and plan,
whereas Op.24 with its Celtic themes is perhaps slightly further
removed. Though still indebted to this model, Op.23 has a modified
focus. From the perspective of Gregorian chant,
Op.23 complements my ‘Mnemonic Suite’ Op.21, which
uses the eight Gregorian Psalm Tones.
Throughout ‘Partita Narrativa’ there is a strong
tonal pull towards F, rather than F sharp, as a notional ‘dominant’.
The music reflects on the life of my mother, a painter, poet,
Occupational Therapist, counsellor, latterly stricken by
Alzheimer’s disease. There is celebration of her creativity,
homage to her relationships, acknowledgement of
ambivalence, as well as contemplation of the disintegrating mind.
Quintessence is an appropriate title in more than one
way: it is a reaction to the essential, brilliant nature of B
and the music is in quintuple time. Tonus Peregrinus makes its
first appearance here.
Kol Nidrei is a long-overdue tribute to my greatly loved
stepfather. In musical letters, his full name generates the
recitative-like theme which opens and closes the piece. The famous
Jewish chant fluctuates in mood and style, its
words a curiously paradoxical utterance, looking both back and
Valse Locrienne generates its theme from my mother’s
name, in a tonality where F natural takes the role of ‘dominant’,
the neglected Locrian mode. Similarly, the standard ‘um-pa-pa’
Waltz rhythm is slightly offset. Like ‘Prélude circulaire’
from Op.22, ‘Valse Locrienne’ is an exact palindrome.
It is a re-composed version of my ‘Valse Locrienne’
for organ Op.5.
Peregrinus uses the inverted plainsong to suggest a
parallel between the ‘wandering tone’ and the wandering
This piece and ‘Quintessence’ could be seen as the
dark and bright sides of the same coin, respectively.
Courante Magnétique depicts ambivalence, as the
bass left hand and treble right hand alternately pull towards,
push away from each other, to the depths and heights of the compass.
Juliette’s Madrigal presents its antique-sounding
melody four times, twice in inversion. Though outwardly serene,
this piece has an underlying disquiet.
Repercussions declaims Tonus Peregrinus plus phrases
from Valse Locrienne, Courante Magnétique and Kol Nidrei
in a mood of urgent energy. A climactic point is reached, when
the themes of Valse Locrienne, Peregrinus and Juliette’s
Madrigal combine over a sustained low C. A diminuendo leads to
a quiet episode. Above the left hand’s little ostinato
on the Percussion stop, the right hand reflects on scraps of theme,
almost unravelling as it forgets notes, a musical
reference to the onset of dementia. Yet, “episode”
is the key word, and such a sad affliction cannot be allowed to
a long, rich life of creative achievement. Music from Quintessence
and Peregrinus brings the piece to a quasi-triumphant
To avoid difficult stretches, one hand often helps the other
by playing some of the latter’s notes, as at bars 15 16
52 of Kol Nidrei; bar 50 of Courante Magnétique; or bars
42-47 of Juliette’s Madrigal.
Duration: about 16 minutes
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