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Nigel Keay: Nocturne, Havri...Embedded audio
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The idea of writing a work for baritone saxophone and double bass grew out of two separate meetings, firstly with Eric Tallet who had performed in a concert by the ensemble Traces d'Aujourd'hui where my piece Allusions for Clarinet had been on the programme. Eric suggested that I write something with baritone sax in it so I started to think about an instrumentation. Some weeks later, after hearing him playing in a concert, I met Will Cravy. We eventually had a discussion or two around the double bass's capabilities, and I rapidly began to imagine a duo of the two instruments. I launched into composing the duo in the autumn of 2017.
The Nocturne, as the title implies, is a single movement, and is episodic in nature. It's based loosely on variation form where melodic motifs evolve throughout. There's a constant dialogue between the two instruments with the two lines criss-crossing so that both function as bass and upper voice in the counterpoint.
As for the choice of Nocturne as a title, 2017 was a year in which some more family history came to light thanks to a first cousin once removed visiting Paris and connecting up. I learnt that my great uncle had been killed in action in France in the last months of World War 1, and that my grandfather had been wounded during this conflict, also in France. Nocturne is therefore a symbolic title, one that intends to encapsulate this dark period of the world's history. If this discovery was coincidental, it remains difficult to say the degree to which it affected the writing of the work. The two instruments with their low tessitura generate, rather naturally, an often sombre and sometimes turbulent ambience. This history might have provided fertile ground to create a programmatic piece, but even if staying fairly abstract I decided to give it the subtitle Havrincourt 1918 as away of documenting and thus keeping alive the memory of the events.
Dedicated to Eric Tallet and William McClain Cravy
One movement - 'Maestoso'