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The Liaison, RÍverie, Valse Bleue and Harlequin

      My four pieces for solo instrument and either strings or piano are now available from Novello, which is part of Music Sales Ltd. The versions with piano are or will be available for purchase at music retailers and the versions with strings are available for hire.

      In the late summer of 2004, I was in Switzerland on holiday and a rather balletic fragment in 3/4 for flute came into my mind. The friend that I was staying with had an electric piano but it was in her bedroom and therefore inaccessible. I filed away the theme in a folder in my mind to by developed after my return home. After working my way through the usual ten days of severe jetlag, I worked on my flute tune and easily ended up with a four-minute piece. It seemed to be rather French in style and had a 'bluesy' note in bar four, so I called it Valse Bleue. Then, it occurred to me that if I orchestrated it for flute and strings, it could be useful as a light encore piece for a chamber orchestra. A week or so later, I was invited to be the guest on Brian Kaye's delightful BBC Radio 3 programme next time I came to London which, of course I accepted. In January 2005, Brian Kaye's producer told me that he had the opportunity to record some music with the BBC Concert Orchestra and wanted to know if I had anything new that could be recorded for inclusion in my Brian Kaye programme. I offered him Valse Bleue, which was recorded with John Wilson conducting, and the solo beautifully played by Ileana Ruhemann. The producer then said that he was going to have another recording session with the BBCCO in March and asked if I had another piece that could be recorded. I said no but I could compose a piece for violin and strings. I've composed or arranged a lot of music for violin solo over the years, including eight arrangements for Itzhak Perlman, so it wasn't difficult to write a piece. The big problem was to think of a title for it. I've never had any talent for inventing suitable titles and have always admired my late friend Robert Farnon for his ability to think of just the right title. I was advised to call the new piece 'RÍverie' which I've never been happy with. Violinists, not surprisingly, play it too dreamily. I think 'Romance' would have been better but my friends make a face.

      As soon as I'd composed 'RÍverie', I realized that if I composed a third piece, I would then have a little suite. I had always wanted to compose a cello piece and this seemed to be a good opportunity. One thing was clear to me, I didn't want this to be yet another romantic piece. I love the dramatic side of the cello and the opening agitato came to me at once. I chose the key of F minor because the theme in that key sounded right on the instrument. It also sounded right for the viola restatement of the theme and having the cello then accompany the violas seemed logical. This leads to the lyrical cello solo at bar 24. So the early bars of the piece were going to have some dramatic (dangerous) urgency about them leading to a romantic theme still in a minor key. I thought that this could be a story of a dangerous tryst. The idea of Romeo & Juliet came to me. This meant that there had to be a second solo voice and this would best be a solo violin played by the leader (concertmaster) who would be seated close to the solo cellist. Originally I gave four bars of the melody at bar 42 to the violin. This had to be changed eventually for the following reason. After writing three versions of this piece I addressed the idea of a cello and piano version. This created a problem. It meant that the cello had to really play the melody at bar 42. The piano had just played the tutti that begins at bar 32 and couldn't go on and play the solo at bar 42. The cello would have been out of the picture for too long. So I gave the cello the solo at 42. This took the cello a minor third higher than had been planned but I thought that this could make the piece a little more challenging and that this could add to the appeal of playing it for cellists. So some months after signing the agreement with the publisher I had to rewrite this section. I wanted the idea of a dialogue between the violin and the cello (the two lovers) so I wrote a countermelody for the violin. The four bars that begin at bar 59 I think of as the 'goodbyes' section with its downward phrases and the violin's upward gesture at bar 63 is Juliet fleeing the scene. Romeo's phrases here are in the opposite direction and leading to the 'dangerous' return home. The agitato is simply a mirror of the opening one leading to the cello cadenza and ending. Played as a suite, the pieces should be in the following order: 'The Liaison', 'RÍverie', 'Valse Bleue'.

      Although Novello is marketing 'The Liaison', 'RÍverie' and 'Valse Bleue', I will always think of them as a suite. 'Harlequin' really is a separate piece. Towards the end of my 2005 visit to England, I had the pleasure of visiting Gavin Sutherland, the conductor and composer who I had not seen since the summer of 2002. Gavin, who is married to the celebrated clarinetist, invited me to compose something for piano and clarinet. Once again, the jet lag behind me, a little doodling at the piano gave me the first few bars of the slow section. Then it was just a matter of composing the playful first theme, which could be repeated after the slow middle section. Thinking of an introduction and an ending completed the piece. These four pieces can be heard on by entering the keywords Angela Morley/Valse Bleue. I hope that you like them!

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