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This octet was commissioned by Donald Armstrong for Amici, and was composed early in 2007. It is a programmatic work in a single movement, divided into three sections. The first section, subtitled Octopus depicts the fluid and graceful movements of that mysterious seas creature. A quiet, flowing melody on violin symbolizes the Octopus, and is played in canon, before a more aggressive idea appears. The second main theme features horn and clarinet accompanied by the strings, and is glowing in character. A gently shimmering middle section is interrupted by suggestions of danger, leading to a climax. Following this, the main themes appear in reverse order, and a short clarinet solo leads the music directly into the second section, subtitled Sacrifice. After the female Octopus mates it stoically protects its eggs and slowly starves itself to death in the process. This section is characterized by slowly moving progressions, connected by glissandos, and a rising violin line that eventually leads to a lamenting bassoon solo that recalls the main theme of the first section. The bassoon solo speeds up and leads to the third section, Survival of the Small, in which the tiny Octopuses leave their mother to fight for their existence. Sinuous melodic lines contrast with an ominous-sounding second idea, leading to a rhythmic climax. The main theme only emerges following this, on the violin. A continuous stream of quavers through the movement is suggestive of a long journey. Towards the end the music settles harmonically and slowly fades; we hear fragments of the main Octopus theme returning on the horn.
This Octet was composed as part of the composer’s work at the University of Otago.
Note by Anthony Ritchie
Commissioned by Donald Armstrong for Amici
3. Survival of the Small
15 Jul 2007: Waikanae Music Society: Ritchie
06 Aug 2008: Recorded by Amici - Donald Armstrong (violin), Andrew Thomson (violin), Vyvyan Yendoll (viola), Rowan Prior (cello), Hiroshi Ikematsu (double bass), Phil Green (clarinet), Greg Hill (horn) and Robert Weeks (bassoon) at the Expressions Theatre in Upper Hutt
11 Mar 2010: Amici Octets on The Terrace
21 Jun 2010: ACO: Anthony Ritchie Portrait