Rain, Steam and Speed

Cecilia McDowall (1951)

Rain, Steam and Speed 2006

2222 - 2200 - timp.perc(1) - strings
Duration 
9
Commissioner 

"Rain, Steam and Speed" was commissioned by The Portsmouth Grammar School for the London Mozart Players, conductor, Nicolae Moldoveanu. The first performance was given on 24 June, 2006 at the Gala Concert of the Portsmouth Festivities in the Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral.

Turner's painting, "Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway" (1844) depicts a broad gauge engine steaming across Maidenhead Viaduct, one of Brunel's greatest achievements. The painting offers several perspectives to the viewer: a dark diagonal of bridge and train, crossing the Thames, intersects visions of tranquillity. To the left, far below, a fisherman sits in his skiff and to the right of the picture a ploughman turns his furrow. Ahead of the train a startled hare, the swiftest of creatures, leaps across the track.

In writing "Rain, Steam and Speed", rather than follow a programmatic development of the title I have tried to convey a feeling of wide open spaces and pastoral repose in the opening section. Even the hare (a pair of clarinets) makes a playful appearance. In Turner's painting the 'iron horse' emerges in the distance, pressing powerfully forwards and so, from out of the calm, a clear rhythmic motif, pianissimo at first, rattles to a full orchestral crescendo, then gradually disappears from view.

Cecilia McDowall 2016

Performances 
24.6.06 Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral: London Mozart Players / Nicolae Modoveanu
21-24.7.10 Tour of the Netherlands: Surrey County Youth Orchestra / Peter Currie
18.6.03 Radio New Zealand concert: Choir of Merton College, Oxford / Orchestra Nova / George Vass
24.3.14 Palmers Green London: Enfield Young Symphony Orchestra / Philip Colman
2
Flute
2
Oboe
2
Clarinet
2
Bassoon
2
Horn
2
Trumpet
1
Timpani
1
Percussion
bass drum, side drum, glockenspiel
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