Philip Grange (born 1956) - Cimmerian Nocturne

Philip Grange (born 1956)
Cimmerian Nocturne

Cimmerian Nocturne was written in 1978-9 in response to a commission from The Fires of London, and first performed by them at the 1980 St Magnus Festival in Orkney. The concern of the work is the generation and carrying-out of a process right on the music’s audible surface. What might exist as substructure in another composer’s work here is raised to the level of actual subject matter. The resultant intensity and feeling of experiencing the bare bones are characteristic of Grange’s work.

In Cimmerian Nocturne, the process consists of the creation and eventual braking of a moto perpetuo, principally within the percussion part and secondarily in the piano part. Paralleling this, there is a long ‘cantus’ melody, first on bass clarinet, then on B flat and E flat clarinet while the moto perpetuo intensifies, and a corresponding cantus, when it brakes, with alto flute, the flute bringing the work back full circle to the opening piccolo scream.

The adjective ‘cimmerian’ derives from the Greek Kimmerios, which refers to the people of Kimerii, who were fabled as dwelling in perpetual night. This is a nocturne, the composer warns us, not of the usual salon variety. Although not referred to in the title, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was also an important poetic stimulus to the work.

©Philip Grange

Philip Grange was appointed Professor of Composition at the University of Manchester in 2001, having previously held appointments at Trinity College, Cambridge and the universities of Durham and Exeter. His compositions have been performed throughout the world, and in the UK this has included performances at most major festivals including the BBC Proms, Huddersfield and Cheltenham. This year overseas his string quartet Ghosts of Great Violence has been performed in Taiwan and Belgium by the Quatuor Danel following its premiere in Manchester and his chamber orchestra piece Adopted Path was performed at a festival in Monterrey, Mexico, where he was the featured international composer. A significant number of Grange’s works have been recorded on CD and his compositions are published by Peters Edition.

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