Composers EditionRichard Whalley is delighted to be one of the founder-member composers to be published by Composers Edition. Scores and parts now available from composersedition.com

 

 

A love of playing the piano, an urge to control sound ‘from the inside’ and a compulsion to comprehend how music works (an impossible task) are driving forces behind the music of Richard Whalley. Informed as much by a relationship with the music of the past (particularly Beethoven) as with the music of more recent composers (Ligeti, Nancarrow, Nono, etc.) and that of his contemporaries, his work continually applies new or unexpected approaches to familiar musical concepts. For example Interlocking Melodies, composed for the Quatuor Danel in 2007, engages with the concepts of melody and whole-tone scales by exploiting relationships between complementary whole-tone melodies a quarter-tone apart. More recently, Frozen (2014), written for musicians at the Festival International de Musique de Chambre en Poitou, builds distinctive lines and harmonies from interlocking harmonic series.

Navigating a pathway between seemingly contradictory qualities of intimacy (where every nuance counts) and of playfulness or quirkiness, his compositions have drawn on diverse sources of inspiration, driven by a preoccupation with the sensuous and/or physical impact of music. For example Intoxicating Orchids (2006), composed for the New Professionals was inspired by the scent of orchids. Circling (2006), composed for Psappha, took its starting point from the elegance and contrapuntal complexities of steam engines in Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. Perhaps most eclectic of all, his solo cello sonata Tachophobia(2008) is a response to Tarantino’s film ‘Deathproof’ and Bach.

Certain more recent works take analogies with visual art as a starting point for their thinking. Works inspired by visual art includeInterlocking Melodies (mentioned above), inspired by De Kooning’s ‘Untitled XIII’, A Very Serious Game (2012), written for Ensemble 10:10 inspired by pictures by M.C. Escher, and Three Roses (2013), written for the London Symphony Orchestra, inspired by the huge imposing canvases of Cy Twombly’s The Rose. There are so many aspects of a painting that can suggest musical ideas or processes (from architectural aspects such as structure and balance, to the way the painting feels: its texture, its mood, its subject matter…) and the composer is endlessly fascinated by the possibilities suggested through art.

Selected Works

Categories:
Solo/Duo
Small Chamber Ensemble
Chamber Enesmble
Large Ensemble
Chamber Orchestra
Orchestra

The scores and recordings here are (pretty full) samples only. If you would like to see or hear more, please don't hesitate to get in touch at mail@richardwhalley.com.

SOLO / DUO

York Calling - for solo horn 2015
i + 1 page Duration : 1 min

 programme note from £3.49

Richard Whalley : York Calling

York Calling uses natural harmonic series to celebrate the continuing resonance of the music department at the University of York (where I was a student 1992-96), 50 years after its birth.

Premiered by Peter Baumann as part of the University of York Music Department’s 50th anniversary celebrations, on 13 June 2015

Cadenza for Mozart’s Piano Concerto, K.467, first movement - for solo piano 2015
i + 1 page Duration : 1 min

 view score extract (pdf) from £3.49

Richard Whalley : From there to here, from here to there

This short piano piece, contrasting movement with stasis, is intended for the children at the Yve Poprawski’s Dance Studio in Bad Kreuznach, Germany.

Premiered by Richard Whalley, with the Eagle Orchestra as part of Kate Elmitt's Concerto Bonanza at Hitchin Boy’s School on 28 June 2015.

From there to here, from here to there - for solo piano 2014
ii + 4 pages Duration : 2 mins 30

 view score extract (pdf)  programme note from £3.49

Richard Whalley : From there to here, from here to there

This short piano piece, contrasting movement with stasis, is intended for the children at the Yve Poprawski’s Dance Studio in Bad Kreuznach, Germany.

Premiered by Richard Whalley at the Tanzstudio Yve Poprawski, Bad Kreuznach, Germany on 2 May 2015.

Kokopelli – for descant recorder and prepared piano 2013
ii + 7 pages Duration : 4-5 mins

 view score extract (pdf)  programme note

Richard Whalley : Butterflies

Kokopelli is a fertility deity, venerated by some Native American cultures in the south-western USA. Petroglyphs of him playing the flute (which looks to me much more like a recorder), with his distinctive humped back, date from as far back as 750 to 850 AD. He is said to carry unborn children to women on his back, and also, through his music, to chase away winter and bring about spring. He is said to represent the spirit of music. This piece, composed in celebration of John Turner’s 70th birthday, contains a fertility of material, which reflects the fertility of musical activity that John is responsible for.

Premiered by John Turner and Richard Whalley at the Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, University of Manchester on 21 Nov 2013.

Butterflies – for solo piano 2012
i + 6 pages Duration : 5 mins

 view score extract (pdf)  programme note from £4.19

Richard Whalley : Butterflies

Intended as a response to M.C. Escher’s 1950s print, Butterflies (which I love), the composition process ended up taking me in a different direction, and this short piano piece attempts to depict the spontaneity of movement of butterflies, and the warmth which they (like I) thrive on. Movement is particularly important here, as this composition was written for the students at Yve Poprawski’s Dance Studio in Bad Kreuznach, German

Premiered by Richard Whalley on 12 August, 2012 in Eglise Saint-Gervais in Ayron, France as part of the Concerts en nos Villages series run by ARAM-Poitou summer school.
Five Preludes for piano solo2009
ii + 14 pages Duration : 12 mins

programme note from £4.19

Richard Whalley : Five Preludes

Masquing the Medusa is a tribute to my friend and colleague John Casken, and was composed for a concert celebrating his work at Manchester University in January 2008. This short prelude pays homage to him by taking ingredients from two of his compositions and putting them together in my own way. The notes of the melody are taken from the oboe part of Masque and the accompaniment figure stems from a prominent figure in the piano part of Blue Medusa.

The remaining preludes were composed during the spring of 2009, born from a feeling that Masquing the Medusa needs to be part of something bigger. For me there"s something very tantalizing about miniatures, each offering glimpse of a different world. I think of these as preludes in the Debussian sense; he deliberately placed the titles of each his preludes at the end of the music, so that people would be free to revel in their own associations and imagery, and not be too influenced by his titles. My titles were thought up after composition of the preludes, so I would encourage performers and listeners to do the same here.

Previews:  Two Lines Transcended  A Butterfly Flaps its Wings  Still Waters  Humpty Dumpty  Masquing the Medusa
Premiered by Richard Whalley at the Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, University of Manchester on 12 Nov 2009.
Three Worlds for piano solo2009
ii + 6 pages Duration : 5 mins

 view score extract (pdf)  programme note from £3.49

Richard Whalley : Three Worlds

In 1955 the artist M.C. Escher produced a lithograph print, entitled Three Worlds, depicting an image of a pond or lake during the autumn or winter. Three worlds can be seen in this image: the world below the surface, as shown by a large fish swimming beneath the surface, the surface of the water itself on which an array of leaves float, and the world above the surface, observable through the reflection of overhead trees. Beautifully composed and balanced, there is something almost playful about this somewhat stylised representation of nature: this is what interests me as a composer.

This print has a metaphorical relationship with this short piano piece, in which different layers of music, each with their own individual characteristics coexist, and depend on one another for contrast and harmony. Central to these layers is a long cantus-firmus melody, which can be heard in various guises throughout.

Completed in January 2009, this piece is intended as the first of a cycle of piano pieces inspired by the Escher’s remarkable images

Premiered by Richard Whalley at Emmanuel Church, Didsbury (Manchester) on 13 June 2009.
Tachophobia for cello solo2008
ii + 12 pages Duration : 20 mins
view score (pdf)   programme note

Richard Whalley : Tachophobia

This cello sonata takes two very different sources for its inspiration: J.S. Bach and Tarantino"s film Deathproof (2007). Bach speaks for himself: how can one not think of him when writing for cello? Where Tarantino’s orgy of fast cars, beautiful women, a twisted predatory male and adrenalin fits in perhaps takes more explanation. In writing this piece two qualities of Tarantino"s film impressed me: its gutsy yet intimate cinematography (there are no special effects; all stunts are real) and its simple black–and–white symmetrical structure, causing the second half of the film to be viewed in a particular way having been set up by the first half.

The sound of the cello is remarkable for its expressive range. From darkly sinister to highly-strung intensity to the sweetest lyricism, perhaps no instrument lends itself better to a musical representation of the qualities I was impressed by in Deathproof. The four movement structure – inspired by the symmetry of the film – is designed to exploit contrast. Thus the four movements are organised: lyrical⁄dark – physical⁄light – lyrical⁄light – physical⁄dark. The climactic final movement is in fact an attempt to depict the intense speed, physical excitement, and inescapable fear of a car chase.

This sonata was composed for the cellist Oliver Coates during the spring and summer of 2008.

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Premiered by Oliver Coates at the Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, University of Manchester on 22 Apr 2010.
Masquing the Medusa for piano solo2007
ii + 2 pages Duration : 3 mins
programme note

Premiered by Richard Casey at the Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, University of Manchester on 25 Jan 2008. Later incorporated into Five Preludes (2009).

Six Songs of Old Japanese Wisdom for voice and piano2004
iii + 14 pages Duration : 9 mins
programme note from £4.19

Richard Whalley : Six Songs of Old Japanese Wisdom

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827) was one of Japan’s most important haiku poets. Though he lived a life full of tragedy, he found solace in nature and was known for a sympathetic attitude towards small creatures; this comes out very strongly in his poetry.

As a composer I find these beautifully poignant ‘snapshots’ of life by Issa so powerful, offering through minimal means insights that tell us an inestimable amount about humanity and the world we live in. What better justification for why, as human beings, we need art? These modest songs aspire to the status of the frog in the following: Yase gaeru makeru na Issa koko ni ari.

You skinny frog, you
don’t be beaten, don’t give up!
Here stands Issa by you.

The haiku are all by Issa; the English translations are by Earle Joshua Stone (in That Lovable Old Issa, ) and David G. Lanoue (haikuguy.com/issa). The titles of the songs are my own.

Previews:  Wisdom  Life  Beauty  Instinct
 Reflection – part one  Reflection – part two  Wisdom

Premiered by Michael Solomon Williams and Melanie Jones in the Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, University of Manchester on 25 May 2007.
Prestissimo con violenza, ma molto espressivo con intimissimo sentimento for various keyboard instruments2001
ii + 6 pages Duration : 2½ mins
view score (pdf)   programme note

Richard Whalley : Prestissimo con violenza, ma molto espressivo con intimissimo sentimento

This piece was conceived to be played on a three octave toy piano (range F below middle C to F 2½ octaves above), and was inspired by the sense in which sound can feel like it is being literally coaxed out of such a small instrument. It seemed to me that a unique, and strangely intense sense of struggle is generated by playing on such an instrument. This piece is an étude in drawing sound out of a small instrument. It is also supposed to be a lot of fun!

Although conceived with the toy piano (and its noisy action!) in mind, like much keyboard music this is a piece about pitch and rhythm, and is intended for possible performance on a range of different keyboard instruments: besides the toy piano, it may be performed on fortepiano, harpsichord, accordion, or chamber organ. It is also intended that this piece be played more than once in the same concert given its short duration and fast tempo - ideally on different instruments.

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listen (mp3) - performed by Rodney Lister on toy piano
listen (mp3) - performed by Richard Whalley on harpsichord
Premiered by myself on harpsichord and fortepiano at Harvard University on 16 March 2002.
Ad Infinitum for violin solo2000
iii + 6 pages Duration : 9 mins
listen (mp3)   view score (pdf)   programme note

Richard Whalley : Ad Infinitum

In many ways the composition of this solo violin piece was a new departure for me. It is built entirely out of rather simple blocks of material, and creates patterns through the juxtaposition of these blocks, one after another. Every silence is coloured by the relationships between these blocks, yet these relationships that are so important to the piece can never be heard explicitly, being totally dependant on the listener’s memory for their existence. Where memory is involved (as it always is when listening to music) time does not travel in a straight line, instead it circles around and around, sometimes utterly still, sometimes relatively turbulent, yet always inviting meditation on the infinite depth and variety of the sound of the violin.

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Premiered by Stephen Provine at Paine Hall, Harvard University, USA on 10 March 2001.
Missing Jen for piano solo1998
i + 14 pages Duration : 11 mins
listen (mp3)    view score (pdf)   programme note
Premiered by myself in Harvard Group for New Music concert at Paine Hall, Harvard University on 5 March 1998.

 

SMALL CHAMBER ENSEMBLE ( 3-5 players)

Frozen for clarinet in A, violin, cello and piano 2014
iv + 38 pages Duration : 20 mins
view score (pdf)   programme note

When the temperature drops below freezing everything is transformed. I find this fascinating.

The metaphor of freezing can be applied also be applied to time, and by analogy to music. It is a bit like freezing time when we use technology to study the structure of sound, and gain greater understanding about sound waves. But even before we had this technology, musicians understood that the harmonic series (consisting of sound waves vibrating in frequencies that are related by exact multiples) is fundamental to the way music works.

This piece exploits tension between the harmonic series (and intonation based on its pure intervals) and equal temperament tuning, based on division of the octave into 12 equal semitones. Harmonic series, mostly based on the open strings of the violin and cello, are the source of all the material found here.

There are three movements, each of which is much longer than the one before.

I will always be indebted to Guy Danel for inviting me to be a part of the Aram-Poitou Summer School, and inspired by his searching attitude to music. I hope I have captured some of his ideas about music in this piece, which is dedicated to him.

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Premiered by Jean-Michel Charlier, Eric Robberecht, Guy Danel and Nicolas Hourt at the Festival International de Musique de Chambre en Poitou in Chiré-en-Montreuil, France on 3rd August 2014.
Problems Arising from Sympathy for bass flute, mezzo-soprano and cello2010
iii + 12 pages Duration : 12 mins
view score (pdf)   programme note from £4.19

There are few greater testaments to the ancient Greek’s belief in the power of the mind than the fact that Aristotle’s views on the sciences - obtained through rigorous logic and reasoning - dominated scholarship for almost 2,000 years. Aristotle’s 38 books of Problems (not actually written by him, but known to be derived from his writings), cover a kaleidoscopic range, and give a fascinating insight into his world and thinking. Subjects of these books range from the earthy to the philosophical, and include On Wine-drinking and Drunkenness, Problems connected with Temperament, Problems concerning Sexual Intercourse and Problems connected with Harmony (which give fascinating insights into the music theory of the time). All follow the same format: a question on why something that has been observed is as it is, followed by a series of sentences which attempt to answer this question through reason. The intellectual energy of these questions is quite breathtaking: there are over 1,000 questions in all, and their language and content is intensely vivid and thought-provoking despite the fact the world – and scientific knowledge – has changed so much since Aristotle’s time.

This work was composed in 2010, and is dedicated to Trio Atem, for whom it was written.

Shorter version (5 mins) premiered by Trio Atem at the Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, University of Manchester on 26 Feb 2010. Extended version premiered by Trio Atem at the Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, University of Manchester on 18 Mar 2011.
Interlocking Melodies for string quartet2007
iii + 14 pages Duration : 7 mins
listen (mp3)   view score (pdf)   programme note

Richard Whalley : Interlocking Melodies

This relatively short, intense movement can be heard as a set of variations, in which interlocking melodies are subjected to a number of transformations, resulting in a number of increasingly intricate textures. To complicate matters the "theme" consistently gets faster, yet the rate at which textures evolve does not, so the "theme" appears to accelerate ahead of the texture. It may help to think of the movement as a progression through a life-cycle, from naivety through an accumulation of experience (which includes moments of crisis and of climax), culminating in serene acceptance.

I had wanted to pay tribute to the wonderful composer György Ligeti, who died in June last year. It is very dangerous for a composer like myself to get too close to the music of a great composer (think of all the 19th century composers who struggled with the shadow of Beethoven), so I chose a tangential course. When I think of Ligeti’s music I think of infinite space, as it seems utterly unlimited in scope; it often appears to have a remarkable property of transcending gravity. I was drawn to a late painting of the artist De Kooning, Untitled XIII, that consists of a number of large curvy shapes in yellow, green red and white that serenely float in some kind of intriguing weightless balance. In music the whole-tone scale defies gravity, as all its intervals are equal, and all its pitches are of equal weight. Therefore it seemed natural to build the interlocking melodies in this piece out of interlocking whole-tone scales.Within the traditional 12 semitones there are two complementary whole-tone scales, but to increase the range of the harmonic palette of this piece I decided to incorporate four complementary whole-tone scales, by making strategic use of the two whole-tone scales based on quarter-tones.

It has been a real privilege to compose the piece for the Quatuor Danel for this concert, whose outstanding range of colour has been a real inspiration for me.

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Premiered by Quatuor Danel at Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, University of Manchester on 27 Apr 2007. Selected for ISCM World Music Days in Leuven, Belgium, Oct 2012.
Circling for piano, clarinet and cello2006
ii + 22 pages Duration : 12 mins
view score (pdf)   programme note

Richard Whalley : Circling

Circling was inspired by the old steam engines that used to drive the cotton mills, now residing in the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. I was fascinated by the cross-rhythms of all the cogs, pistons and gears, endlessly moving back and forth at an array of different speeds, all connected and dependent on one another. There’s something melancholic about these beautiful, eccentric constructions still clanking away, yet confined to a museum, the world having moved on.

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Premiered by Psappha at the Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, University of Manchester on 1 Feb 2007.
Sad Fountains for three viols and lute2004
ii + 6 pages Duration : 5 mins
programme note

Richard Whalley : Sad Fountains

It seems to me that art is at its most powerful when it aspires to intimacy and directness, and of all the arts music is the ideal medium for achieving this. I don’t think it is an over-generalization to say that the music I love most from all periods – be it the late quartets of Beethoven, or the late works of Luigi Nono – is notable for its intimacy. The music of John Dowland is remarkable in this respect: no doubt this is why we still feel it necessary to perform this music 400 years after it was written.

The viol consort is ideally suited to conveying intimacy, so it was a privilege for me to write for this ensemble. All of the material I used in this short composition is drawn from Dowland’s exquisitely poignant Weep you no more, sad fountains. My aim was to retain something of the essence of Dowland’s song, notably the fluidity of his compositional technique, whilst following my own nose (pursuing an interest in the dynamics of musical gesture and in freely evolving variation processes) and exploring some of vast range of sonorities available from viols and lute.

Premiered by Marésienne Consort at Cheltenham Festival on 17 July 2004.
...between fragmented silence... for 4 male voices + pitch pipes2001
iii + 10 pages Duration : 8 mins
view score (pdf)   programme note
Premiered by the Hilliard Ensemble at Paine Hall, Harvard University on 26 May 2001.
Twisted Variations for vn (or va), vc, pno, perc, accordion2001
iii + 10 pages Duration : 9 mins

listen (mp3)   view score (pdf)   programme note

Richard Whalley : Twisted Variations

Twisted Variations consists of a series of blocks, which are closely related, which are subjected a number of intuitively conceived processes: they overlap, interrupt one another, form counterpoints, etc. and often instrumentalists are asked to play simultaneously at different speeds. The piece can be thought of as a set of variations which does not behave properly, or as a collage of different interpretations of the same material.

Twisted Variations was conceived during Jo Kondo’s composition masterclass at Dartington (UK) in the summer of 2000, and was reorganized into its current form during December 2001 for Ensemble Aleph’s second forum for composers, and performed a number of times by them in 2002-3 in France, Germany and Spain.

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Premiered by Ensemble Aleph at Moulin d’Andé, France on 20 July 2002, and featured in their Second Forum for Composers.
Five Bagatelles for wind quintet1997
i + 19 pages Duration : 10 mins

listen (mp3)   view score (pdf)   programme note
Premiered by Arcadian Winds in Paine Hall, Harvard University on 12 Dec 1997.
Three Bagatelles for string quartet1995
i + 10 pages Duration : 8 mins

listen (mp3)

Richard Whalley : Five Bagatelles

The bagatelle has been in existence for over 300 years, although Beethoven was the first composer to write bagatelles of any significance. His were short, full of wit and intense, enabling him to experiment with more highly characterized material than normal, given the lack of need for long-term development. Later composers who have made use of the genre, for instance Webern, have tended to maintain the short timescale and the intensity, but not necessarily with their priorities set on being amusing. The genre of the bagatelle, in its original form, in its original Beethovenian form with its blend of intense expressivity and humour, therefore seemed to me ideal for tackling the challenge of writing a wind quintet that is fun to listen to: highly characterized, exploring a wide range of moods, and unpredictable. In pursuit of these ideal, I was also inspired by Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for wind quintet.

 

 

CHAMBER ENSEMBLE ( 6-10 players)

Wonderland for flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, viola and cello 2015
ii + 26 pages Duration : 14-15 mins
programme note

Richard Whalley : Wonderland

Whilst the irresistible fantasy of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, with its wormholes and alternative realities can be seen as a metaphor for the workings of this piece, the title's real meaning is to invite wonder at the miracle of our earth, our soil, which sustains us and makes life possible. I am deeply concerned by mankind's current obsession with short-term gain at the expense of the natural environment, and sincerely hope future generations will do a better job of looking after our wonderland than we are managing at present.

This piece is like a garden, and pays homage to the Giardino Religioso by Bruno Maderna. Some parts of the garden are more wild and chaotic, where beauty stems from constantly evolving combinations of shapes and textures. Elsewhere clearer patterns emerge. Gradual changes in atmosphere, in lighting, in the circulation of air can be perceived when walking from one area to another; sometimes birds may be hear calling from above. Above all, a garden is a wonderful place to become lost in one's thoughts.

This piece was commissioned by the Concorso Nutrire La Musica for the Expo Milano 2015, and was premiered by Divertimento Ensemble in May 2015. It is dedicated to my father, Leslie Whalley, who (along with my mother) nourished my musical education throughout my childhood, and actively supported all my musical activities since then. For this, I will always be grateful.

view score (pdf)

Richard Whalley : Five Bagatelles

The bagatelle has been in existence for over 300 years, although Beethoven was the first composer to write bagatelles of any significance. His were short, full of wit and intense, enabling him to experiment with more highly characterized material than normal, given the lack of need for long-term development. Later composers who have made use of the genre, for instance Webern, have tended to maintain the short timescale and the intensity, but not necessarily with their priorities set on being amusing. The genre of the bagatelle, in its original form, in its original Beethovenian form with its blend of intense expressivity and humour, therefore seemed to me ideal for tackling the challenge of writing a wind quintet that is fun to listen to: highly characterized, exploring a wide range of moods, and unpredictable. In pursuit of these ideal, I was also inspired by Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for wind quintet.

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Commissioned by the Feeding Music International Composition Competition, and premiered by Divertimento Ensemble as part of Milan Expo 2015, date tbc.

Thir(s)ty for cl, tp, marimba, pn, soprano, vn, vc 2013
ii + 2 pages Duration : 30 secs
programme note

Richard Whalley : Thir(s)ty

Thir(s)ty is a fast thirty-second pointillistic piece, composed to celebrate the thirtieth birthday of Ensemble Aleph.

view score (pdf)

Richard Whalley : Five Bagatelles

The bagatelle has been in existence for over 300 years, although Beethoven was the first composer to write bagatelles of any significance. His were short, full of wit and intense, enabling him to experiment with more highly characterized material than normal, given the lack of need for long-term development. Later composers who have made use of the genre, for instance Webern, have tended to maintain the short timescale and the intensity, but not necessarily with their priorities set on being amusing. The genre of the bagatelle, in its original form, in its original Beethovenian form with its blend of intense expressivity and humour, therefore seemed to me ideal for tackling the challenge of writing a wind quintet that is fun to listen to: highly characterized, exploring a wide range of moods, and unpredictable. In pursuit of these ideal, I was also inspired by Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for wind quintet.

from £3.49
Premiered by Ensemble Aleph in the Théâtre Dunois, Paris on 4 June 2013.
Sextet for 2tp, hn, tb, tuba & percussion2000
ii + 29 pages Duration : 10 mins
programme note

Richard Whalley : Sextet

Sextet is the result of spending the best part of a year thinking about all the things that brass and percussion are capable of, not only in terms of raw physical sound, but in terms of personality.

The piece falls into three relatively short movements. The first of these can be likened to the Big Bang: an explosion, followed by its resultant shock-waves, cycling through the debris of the same very basic material, out of which steadily longer and more sophisticated patterns start to form, but which can at any moment be cut off. The rest of the piece continues this process of building out of the material, in the second movement by means of flowing chromatic counterpoint. This all becomes "frozen" in the third movement into static blocks of sound whose internal structure is seen in different lights through the removal of various components of the sound at any one time, thus creating a kind of "inward counterpoint".

My aim was at all times to maintain a dialogue between construction and deconstruction, movement and stillness, continuity and interruption, familiarity and non-familiarity. All of this was to occur within a framework whereby [ideally!] the material evolves organically from the physical properties of the instruments, and the structure out of the material, and everything in the piece relates to everything else. Thinking about the way that sound is produced on brass instruments led me to explore the harmonic series in counterpoint to the familiar twelve semitones, and to aspire both to the elemental, almost primeval quality of Varése, and to the curiously melancholic zaniness of Ligeti, although to be honest thinking about brass instruments is but one of the many ways in which my thoughts can turn to the latter…

Richard Whalley : Five Bagatelles

The bagatelle has been in existence for over 300 years, although Beethoven was the first composer to write bagatelles of any significance. His were short, full of wit and intense, enabling him to experiment with more highly characterized material than normal, given the lack of need for long-term development. Later composers who have made use of the genre, for instance Webern, have tended to maintain the short timescale and the intensity, but not necessarily with their priorities set on being amusing. The genre of the bagatelle, in its original form, in its original Beethovenian form with its blend of intense expressivity and humour, therefore seemed to me ideal for tackling the challenge of writing a wind quintet that is fun to listen to: highly characterized, exploring a wide range of moods, and unpredictable. In pursuit of these ideal, I was also inspired by Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for wind quintet.

Premiered by Atlantic Brass with percussionist Bob Schultz in Paine Hall, Harvard University on 19 May 2000.
Elegy for fl, cl, pno, perc, vn, vc, db 1999
ii + 38 pages Duration : 8 mins
programme note

Richard Whalley : Elegy

This piece is dedicated to the memory of Conlon Nancarow, arguably the most original composer to be born on American soil since Charles Ives. There are several reasons for the relative obscurity of Nancarrow’s music, one being that he spent most of his working life in political exile (from the U.S.), in Mexico, another being that the vast majority of his music is unplayable by human performers, due to its staggering rhythmic complexity, and thus was written for player piano.

This work is an elegy in two ways: the cantus firmus which plays repeatedly throughout is itself an elegy, and the music which is eventually heard against the cantus firmus is, like much of Nancarrow’s music, a canon at two different tempi. So, there are three layers to my piece: the cantus firmus in the middle, a high-pitched layer of canon, and a low-pitched layer of canon which plays at 1½ times the speed of the upper layer. The three layers enter in this order, and the piece is over shortly after the moment where the lower line overtakes the upper line.

This piece exists in two forms, as a piano piece, composed in the spring of 1998, and in its current form, recomposed for ensemble. As a piano piece it is extremely difficult to play, due to its textural and contrapuntal complexity, which is one of the main reasons I decided to come up with this version. The piano version probably has more of a "raw edge", due to the perversity of the task of playing it, but the use of such an ensemble allowed for many different ways in which material could be characterized by instrumentation, thus resulting in a clearer, more colourful structure; at least that was my aim.

view score (pdf)

Richard Whalley : Five Bagatelles

The bagatelle has been in existence for over 300 years, although Beethoven was the first composer to write bagatelles of any significance. His were short, full of wit and intense, enabling him to experiment with more highly characterized material than normal, given the lack of need for long-term development. Later composers who have made use of the genre, for instance Webern, have tended to maintain the short timescale and the intensity, but not necessarily with their priorities set on being amusing. The genre of the bagatelle, in its original form, in its original Beethovenian form with its blend of intense expressivity and humour, therefore seemed to me ideal for tackling the challenge of writing a wind quintet that is fun to listen to: highly characterized, exploring a wide range of moods, and unpredictable. In pursuit of these ideal, I was also inspired by Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for wind quintet.

Premiered by Aspen Contemporary Ensemble at Aspen Music Festival on 15 July 1999. Nominated for finals of Gaudeamus Prize 2001.
Gesualdo Revisited for cor ang, hn, gtr, hrp, perc, va, vc, db1999
iii + 17 pages Duration : 8 mins
Premiered by Fromm Players in Paine Hall, Harvard University on 7 May 1999.
The Joy of Melody for fl, cl, tp, pno, perc, vn, vc1996
ii + 24 pages Duration : 9 mins

listen (mp3)   view score (pdf)   programme note

Richard Whalley : The Joy of Melody

Melody, that essential yet indefinable concept that makes music stick in our heads is what this piece is about: what constitutes melody, and what it takes for human ears to infer a melody whether one is intended by the composer or not. It might be going a little far to suggest that the process of composing this piece was actually joyful, but I did take a certain pleasure in layering different types of melodic (and "melodic") material on top of one another, and challenging the listener to find their own path through the resulting labyrinth.

Richard Whalley : Five Bagatelles

The bagatelle has been in existence for over 300 years, although Beethoven was the first composer to write bagatelles of any significance. His were short, full of wit and intense, enabling him to experiment with more highly characterized material than normal, given the lack of need for long-term development. Later composers who have made use of the genre, for instance Webern, have tended to maintain the short timescale and the intensity, but not necessarily with their priorities set on being amusing. The genre of the bagatelle, in its original form, in its original Beethovenian form with its blend of intense expressivity and humour, therefore seemed to me ideal for tackling the challenge of writing a wind quintet that is fun to listen to: highly characterized, exploring a wide range of moods, and unpredictable. In pursuit of these ideal, I was also inspired by Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for wind quintet.

Premiered by the Soundpool Ensemble in the Late Music Festival, York on 18 Nov 1997.
Phoenix for 2cl, hn, perc, pno, mez-sop, 2vn, va, vc1992
ii + 29 pages Duration : 7 mins
Premiered by Nash Ensemble in the Barbican on 16 Mar 1992. Finalist in 1992 BBC Young Musician of the Year Composers’ Award, earning a ‘special commendation’.

 

 

LARGE ENSEMBLE

A Very Serious Game for fl, ob, cl, bn, hn, tp, tb, perc, pno, 2vn, va, vc, db 2012
iii + 55 pages Duration : 11 mins
prognote programme note

Richard Whalley : A Very Serious Game

The words of M.C. Escher, ‘My work is a game, a very serious game’, are fitting for an artist whose work so effectively combines wit and a sense of playfulness, with mathematical ingenuity. One may argue that it is the very combination of these qualities that makes so many of Escher’s images so memorable. Much of the music I admire most also seems to contain elements of both, in particular that of György Ligeti and Conlon Nancarrow. Such an attitude to creativity resonates strongly with my approach to composition, and I aspire to write music which shares these qualities.

This work attempts to find musical analogies for the way I perceive Escher’s [mis]representation of visual phenomena in three of his prints. House of Stairs shows figures climbing stairs within an Italianate palace from multiple perspectives, resulting in geometric paradoxes, and tantalising glimpses of the outside world. Three Worlds is a nature scene, consisting of three layers co-existing: fish swimming in a pond, leaves floating on the surface, and the reflection of winter trees above. Metamorphosis II is one of Escher’s most ambitious achievements, consisting of a process of continuous transition through various shapes and objects (insects, fishes, horses, birds, vertiginous coastal village, chess pieces…), reaching places that would have seemed inconceivable from the way the process starts.

I finished this composition in January 2012 and am enormously grateful to Clark Rundell and Ensemble 10/10 for asking me to write it for them.

Previews :score House of Stairs score Three Worlds score Metamorphosis

Richard Whalley : Five Bagatelles

The bagatelle has been in existence for over 300 years, although Beethoven was the first composer to write bagatelles of any significance. His were short, full of wit and intense, enabling him to experiment with more highly characterized material than normal, given the lack of need for long-term development. Later composers who have made use of the genre, for instance Webern, have tended to maintain the short timescale and the intensity, but not necessarily with their priorities set on being amusing. The genre of the bagatelle, in its original form, in its original Beethovenian form with its blend of intense expressivity and humour, therefore seemed to me ideal for tackling the challenge of writing a wind quintet that is fun to listen to: highly characterized, exploring a wide range of moods, and unpredictable. In pursuit of these ideal, I was also inspired by Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for wind quintet.

from £8.49

Premiered by Ensemble 10/10 at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, on 7 Mar 2012.

"Rich in content and association, depth and perspective: this is music by a composer with a ‘hinterland’" – Rob Keeley on A Very Serious Game

Intoxicating Orchids for sax + ensemble (fl, 2cl, harpsichord, perc, 7 strings)2006
iv + 61 pages Duration : 25 mins
view score (pdf)   programme note

Richard Whalley : Intoxicating Orchids (iv) Gongora - (v) Ceologyne

In the summer of 2003 I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a month composing at the La Mortella gardens on the Italian island of Ischia. This is where William Walton lived, and whilst he composed, his wife, Lady Susana, created a wonderful tropical garden, built into a volcanic cliff face. Whilst there I became addicted to the scent of the Acineta Superba orchid, which I was compelled to visit several times a day. The scent of one particular orchid had me utterly intrigued: how could a smell be so complex, so difficult to fathom, so intoxicating? And this got me thinking about parallels with music…

Richard Whalley : Five Bagatelles

The bagatelle has been in existence for over 300 years, although Beethoven was the first composer to write bagatelles of any significance. His were short, full of wit and intense, enabling him to experiment with more highly characterized material than normal, given the lack of need for long-term development. Later composers who have made use of the genre, for instance Webern, have tended to maintain the short timescale and the intensity, but not necessarily with their priorities set on being amusing. The genre of the bagatelle, in its original form, in its original Beethovenian form with its blend of intense expressivity and humour, therefore seemed to me ideal for tackling the challenge of writing a wind quintet that is fun to listen to: highly characterized, exploring a wide range of moods, and unpredictable. In pursuit of these ideal, I was also inspired by Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for wind quintet.

from £12.49
Composed for John Barker and the New Professionals Orchestra. Premiered by them at Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester on 24 May 2007.

A wisp of spring cloud for chamber ensemble (fl, ob, cl, bn, hn, tp, tb, pno, 2perc, 2vn, va, vc, db)2004
vi + 84 pages Duration : 25 mins
view score (pdf)   programme note
Premiered by RNCM New Ensemble at the RNCM, Manchester on 9 May 2006.
When...? for large ensemble (picc, fl, cl, 2sx, tp, hn, 2trb, tuba, 5 voices (2sop, m-s, ten, bar), pno, perc, e.gtr, b.gtr)2004
iii + 17 pages Duration : 4 mins
view score (pdf)   programme note

Richard Whalley : When...?

hum so-ch-nay kay lee-yay kub taha-raingay? / aam-rah kaw-bay bhaabh-tay shoo-roo core-bo? / Når vil vi slutt tro? / Πότε θα σταματήσονμε για να σκεψτόνμε? / Когда мы остановимся чтобы думать? / Itsu Tachi-Domali Kangaelu-Noka? / Kada mes liausimes mastyti? / Când vom avea timp sǎ gândim? / Quando ci fermeremo a pensare? / Quand nous arrêterons-nous de penser? / Wann werden wir aufhören zu denken? / Wanneer zullen we stoppen om na te denken? / When will we stop to think?

When…? was composed for De Ereprijs to play during the February 2004 Apeldoorn Composers’ Meeting. It is a canon between wind and brass, and the words reflect an exasperation much of what is going on the world these days.

Richard Whalley : Five Bagatelles

The bagatelle has been in existence for over 300 years, although Beethoven was the first composer to write bagatelles of any significance. His were short, full of wit and intense, enabling him to experiment with more highly characterized material than normal, given the lack of need for long-term development. Later composers who have made use of the genre, for instance Webern, have tended to maintain the short timescale and the intensity, but not necessarily with their priorities set on being amusing. The genre of the bagatelle, in its original form, in its original Beethovenian form with its blend of intense expressivity and humour, therefore seemed to me ideal for tackling the challenge of writing a wind quintet that is fun to listen to: highly characterized, exploring a wide range of moods, and unpredictable. In pursuit of these ideal, I was also inspired by Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for wind quintet.

Premiered by De Ereprijs Ensemble in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands on 28 Feb 2004.

 

CHAMBER ORCHESTRA

this and that for chamber orchestra and chamber choir
(2/2/2/2 – 2/2/2 – perc – SSAATTBB – 4/4/3/2/1)
2012
iv + 46 pages Duration : 11 mins
pn programme note

Richard Whalley : Sextet

It is easy to take peace for granted if we are lucky enough to live in a peaceful part of the world. And though it is in all of our interests, peace can be so difficult to achieve and we are horribly aware of places where the population is not so lucky. Yet evidence shows that in proportion to population, humanity has never known times where violence is so infrequent.

Neither the music nor the words here are specifically about peace or violence, yet Ira Lightman’s text does hint at the difficulty of achieving peace – and much else besides. A synergy exists between the text and music, central to how this piece operates: the words are vivid and unexpected despite their clear framework, the music more expansive, finding a momentum and expressivity of its own.

Composed during the summer of 2012, this and that owes its existence to Classical Revolution Manchester. It was first performed in a concert to raise funds for the charity Musicians without Borders, as part of the Manchester Peace Festival 2012. I am indebted to Heather Bird for the opportunity to write this work, and to Ira Lightman for providing such inspiring texts to set to music.



this artist
courts that
this circle
around that


this embryo
gorges that
this gelled
eggily that


this income
kitted that
this kinder
incurs that


this mighty
office that
this opussy
miaows that


this quiets
sexily that
this sucked
qualms that


this upends
wedded that
this wished
untied that


this yanked
bursts that
this billet
youths that


this defers
fillip that
this filled
denial that




this hilted
jaguar that
this joyful
hollow that


this loosed
neuter that
this lately
needed that


this pacify
rushes that
this render
purity that


this teased
vastly that
this vector
tubing that


this xrayed
zoning that
this zoomer
yesses that



sleep where weather won’t stop
much most quaint mean midway
high life lattices lovers hairy
beyond belief floodlit bearing blitz
via zoomed zenith zippy vectors
propel people to people propelling
kind of open over kind
every equal I embrace exhorted
you could cry committee years
sleep where weather won’t stop

Richard Whalley : Elegy

This piece is dedicated to the memory of Conlon Nancarow, arguably the most original composer to be born on American soil since Charles Ives. There are several reasons for the relative obscurity of Nancarrow’s music, one being that he spent most of his working life in political exile (from the U.S.), in Mexico, another being that the vast majority of his music is unplayable by human performers, due to its staggering rhythmic complexity, and thus was written for player piano.

This work is an elegy in two ways: the cantus firmus which plays repeatedly throughout is itself an elegy, and the music which is eventually heard against the cantus firmus is, like much of Nancarrow’s music, a canon at two different tempi. So, there are three layers to my piece: the cantus firmus in the middle, a high-pitched layer of canon, and a low-pitched layer of canon which plays at 1½ times the speed of the upper layer. The three layers enter in this order, and the piece is over shortly after the moment where the lower line overtakes the upper line.

This piece exists in two forms, as a piano piece, composed in the spring of 1998, and in its current form, recomposed for ensemble. As a piano piece it is extremely difficult to play, due to its textural and contrapuntal complexity, which is one of the main reasons I decided to come up with this version. The piano version probably has more of a "raw edge", due to the perversity of the task of playing it, but the use of such an ensemble allowed for many different ways in which material could be characterized by instrumentation, thus resulting in a clearer, more colourful structure; at least that was my aim.

score view score (pdf)

Richard Whalley : Five Bagatelles

The bagatelle has been in existence for over 300 years, although Beethoven was the first composer to write bagatelles of any significance. His were short, full of wit and intense, enabling him to experiment with more highly characterized material than normal, given the lack of need for long-term development. Later composers who have made use of the genre, for instance Webern, have tended to maintain the short timescale and the intensity, but not necessarily with their priorities set on being amusing. The genre of the bagatelle, in its original form, in its original Beethovenian form with its blend of intense expressivity and humour, therefore seemed to me ideal for tackling the challenge of writing a wind quintet that is fun to listen to: highly characterized, exploring a wide range of moods, and unpredictable. In pursuit of these ideal, I was also inspired by Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for wind quintet.

from £11.49
Premiered by Classical Revolution Manchester at Night and Day Café, Manchester on 2 Oct 2012.
Shimmering, Stillness, Silence for small chamber orchestra2001
ii + 26 pages Duration : 9 mins
Premiered by l'Orchestre Lyrique de Région Avignon-Provence at the Centre Acanthes, France on 20 July 2001.
Layers and Lines for large chamber orchestra1994
i + 32 pages Duration : 12 mins
Premiered by University of York Chamber Orchestra on 22 Feb 1995.

 

ORCHESTRA

Three Roses for full sumphony orchestra 2013
ii + 12 pages Duration : 3-4 mins
pn programme note

Richard Whalley : Three Roses

In 2009, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a Cy Twombly exhibit in the Art Institute of Chicago, and was struck by a huge canvas by Twombly (entitled ‘The Rose II’). This image consists of three immense flowers, clearly created quickly with great energy, complete with dripping paint. It was impossible to ignore the physicality of the act of painting, and to me the suggestion of the fleetingness of creation. It is as if the drips are starting to erase the original image, making it a memory, yet creating new patterns that partially submerge the original. I was also very struck by the impact of the flowers themselves: not pretty in the conventional sense, but bold, powerful, almost vulgar in how vivid they were.

The musical analogies for me were too strong to ignore: I had to find a way to express this musically. The orchestra is perfectly suited to ‘painting in sound’, with big brush strokes, vibrant colours and the smearing effect of downward gravity transforming the image as it evolves. It is fascinating that objects appear so different when viewed from afar (drawing attention to the shape) and from close-up (where we experience the texture). The idea here is that the listener should feel sucked inside the flowers as the piece evolves, and as this happens overwhelmed by their powerful scent and vibrant colours.

view score (pdf) score from £5.29
Premiered by the London Symphony Orchestra in LSO St Lukes, London on 7 Feb 2014.