Dr Edward Caine is a composer, conductor and pianist who has worked with Jeffrey as Research Assistant for the last 3 years. We asked him to recommend some further listening based on the pieces in our A musical Summer Holiday film. We hope you find something new to enjoy.
Here is his fourth selection of pieces, inspired by Stevie Wishart’s Voicing the Dawn that we commissioned in 2019, and included in our online concert.
1. Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
This single movement work inspired by a poem of the same name by English writer George Meredith. Its iconic soaring violin solo, rising and fluttering above the orchestra imitates both the lark and the driving force of the poetry, and much of the piece echoes Vaughan-Williams’ fascination with pastoral and folk music.
2. Olivier Messiaen: Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time)
I’m conscious that in choosing the epic Quartet for the End of Time, written in 1941 whilst a prisoner of war in a German camp, I am omitting so many wonderful bird-song inspired pieces by Messiaen. This piece, first premiered by fellow captives in Stalag VIII-A Gorlitz, takes the dawn song as a starting point. In Messiaen’s words “Between three and four in the morning, the awakening of the birds: a solo blackbird or nightingale improvises, surrounded by a shimmer of sound […] Transpose this onto a religious plane and you have the harmonious silence of Heaven.”
3. Respighi: Gli uccelli (The Birds)
While Messiaen’s approach may appear modernistic and sometimes brutally dissonant, imitating birdsong is not entirely at the hands of the modernists, and Ottorino Respighi’s 1928 18th century pastiche Gli Uccelli (The Birds) for small orchestra is comprised of five movements, each named after and imitating a particular bird, along with the fluttering of wings and scratching of claws.
4. Jonathan Harvey: Bird Concerto with Pianosong
This is an incredible piece of music that takes as its starting point and incorporates recordings of bird song, transcribing the sounds into the piano solo, which then takes over in its own beautiful style.