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Four Nocturnes / Viola Sonata (PFCD226) CD £12.50/£17.50 Vinyl £15/£20

Composed by Daryl Runswick. Featuring London Voices, National Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble conducted by Ben Parry, Caleb Sibley viola, Aleksander Szram piano

Format/Region

Four Nocturnes

Nocturne 1: Donna Julia
Nocturne 2: Medora to Conrad
Nocturne 3: Incantation
Nocturne 4: She Walks In Beauty
33'52

Viola Sonata

12'15

CD cover with head and shoulders portrait of Lord Byron

“I wrote Four Nocturnes in 1992-3, a commission from The Wooburn Singers of High Wycombe, England, and their conductor Stephen Jackson. How the piece came out is not how I originally planned it. I had suggested Byron as the writer but instead of his poetry I had prepared a libretto from his diaries and letters, with the occasional verse thrown in, dealing with his chaotic personal life and his support, quickly turning to hatred, for Napoleon Bonaparte. This piece was to be called The Disappointments of Lord Byron, and I had already composed some music when the choir threw up their hands in horror. They wanted a straight piece of choral music, settings of poems, not political and possibly scandalous polemic. I almost turned down the commission at that point, being committed to my idea and angry that a mere choir could presume to foil my plans. My publisher, Martin Kingsbury, was philosophical: he’d seen this kind of thing before. ‘The choice is yours, Daryl,’ he said. ‘You give them what they want or return the commission fee.’ This was a very busy time in my career. I was working almost simultaneously on three compositions: I Am A Donut, my improvised ensemble piece, my one-act opera Zuppa Inglese and this Byron piece. It would have been sensible to reduce my workload, but hell, I thought, I’ll throw off the poetry settings they want and take the money. I ditched the sketches for The Disappointments, selected some poems, jotted down Four Nocturnes and moved on. I was so busy at the time that I even farmed out the orchestrations to someone else (years later in 2010 I completely revised these orchestrations, which now represent my own intentions). So imagine my surprise when the piece I never wanted to write, the work I dashed off in a hurry and threw at the choir in disgust, turned out to be a big success. Sometimes, as Kerry Lee Crabbe points out, the stuff we do ‘with our left hand’ comes out better than the stuff we toil and worry over. The first performance was given an ovation, the choir took it on tour to St John’s, Smith Square in London, and the work continues to have a life, culminating in this recording. I dedicated Four Nocturnes to the late Dr Peter Cochran. The texts are taken from his complete edition of Byron. Four Nocturnes contains settings of Byron’s night poetry, of which commodity we discover a large amount. The range of subjects and moods is enormous, from gothic black to risqué farce, and this provides the composer with a rich quarry for an extended piece.

Viola Sonata (2012, revised 2015) was written in memory of my friend John Rolton. As with my other recent sonata-titled pieces – Sonata (Gracing) 2001, Flute Sonata 2003, Third Sonata for piano, 2004 – I didn’t feel the old ‘sonata form’ appropriate to a contemporary piece. Structural devices have lifespans like anything else. I approached the issue of structural unity-with-contrast by applying various treatments, always to the same material. In Viola Sonata this is the long melody heard at the beginning, reintroduced many times in different guises. Thirteen short sections, lasting about a minute each and running without a break, contain each a new interpretation of the basic material. The sections are juxtaposed rather than merged, and the technique is not so much of development as re-imagining or variation. The fact that a relatively small amount of music is used exclusively as the quarry for the structure gives the piece its unity, while the re-imagining – retrograding, inversion, canon, rhythmic compression, reduction to chords etc – provides the variety. The harmonies are made from modes, two of them alternating, one ‘minor-ish’, one ‘major-ish’. The thirteen sections are arranged in groups to form a ‘first movement’, a ‘scherzo’, a ‘slow movement’ and a reprise of the opening.”
Daryl Runswick

Credits

Four Nocturnes:
London Voices and National Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble conducted by Ben Parry
London Voices: Sopranos Alicia Carroll, Jennifer Cearns, Grace Davidson, Joanna Forbes L'Estrange, Gwendolen Martin, Daisy Walford; Altos Amy Blythe, Heather Cairncross, Christina Gill, Helen Hughson, Sumudu Jayatilaka, Clara Sanabras; Tenors John Bowen, Matthew Howard, Henry Moss, Pablo Strong, Gareth Treseder, Will Wright; Basses Freddie Crowley, Bartholomew Lawrence, Timothy Murphy, Sam Poppleton, Jon Stainsby, Lawrence White
Ensemble: Anna Noakes flutes, Ben Marshall cor anglais, Patrick Bolton bassoon, Will Padfield horn, Fraser Tannock trumpet, Richard Ward bass trombone, Craig Apps and George English percussion, Matthew Scrivener, violin
Viola Sonata:
Caleb Sibley, viola Aleksander Szram, piano

Four Nocturnes recorded at St Barnabas, Ealing, 29.4.23
Engineered by Phil Hardman
Produced by Daryl Runswick
Viola Sonata recorded at The DReam Room, London, 16.3.15
Engineered and produced by Daryl Runswick

Executive producer Steve Plews

Daryl Runswick

Daryl Runswick
Composer/performer Daryl Runswick (b. 1946) was educated at Cambridge University and Ronnie Scott’s Club. He spent his early career writing and performing jazz and pop; more recently concert pieces. He has also been involved with free improvisation and indeterminate music, one of the few (to quote John Wickes) who can claim to have worked with both Ornette Coleman and John Cage. This duality has permeated his career as an improvising pianist, singer with Electric Phoenix, bassplayer, arranger, record producer, broadcaster, educator, community animateur and film/TV composer. Head of Composition at Trinity College of Music in London for 10 years before retiring, he has searched for a synthesis of the improvising skills of jazz with the more complex structures of concert music.