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John Elmsly: Response; audioEmbedded audio
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I have played and loved the flute for forty years, so it is a wonderful instrument with which to respond to the NZSO's request for 'a work for flute and orchestra in the nature of a ballade.' One of my main teachers on the instrument, Amelia Skinner, played flute in the orchestra some thirty years ago, and I have always been a great admirer of the sensitive playing of current principal Bridget Douglas.
At the time of beginning the sketches I had come across an old Chinese four-character saying, in fact a quote from a story in a book of philosophy called "Lie-zi" from about 500BC, which describes a beautiful singer whose renditions were so unforgettable they could be heard 'encircling the rafters for three days'. It is a delightful image, often used nowadays to compliment excellence in performance, so throughout the composition I try to make the flute sing until the sound 'rise into the rafters', hence the predominance of rising melodic gestures.
The musical language is entirely derived from a couple of melodies which appear in various forms, sometimes very fragmentary, throughout the piece. Not long before the composing began I had engaged in a discussion with another composter about what he saw as the lack of melodic and harmonic sense in much of the music that is being written today, so I hope that in working entirely with melodic and harmonic ideas I have created an appropriate response. I have also explored memory in creating the form of the piece: losing track of reality then finding it again, a response to the happenings in the mind when affected by brain disease.
Commissioned by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (2004)
01 Oct 2005: Performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Matthias Bamert with soloist Bridget Douglas (flute)