the greatest happiness principle

David Sawer (1961)

the greatest happiness principle 1997

3232 - 4341 - perc(3) - hp - strings (12 10 8 8 6)
Duration 
12
Genre 
Commissioner 
Publisher 

This piece was inspired by the utopian ideas of the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham, and especially by his application of the panoptic principle to prison design.

This design allowed an observer to observe all the prisoners without the prisoners themselves being able to tell whether they were being watched. The intention was to create a transparent system of self-regulation through constant surveillance.

I wanted the character of the piece to salute this governing idea, however halfway through its composition I recognised my own entrapment. Right at the end of the work the conductor relinquishes control and the orchestra enjoys a moment of abandonment.

David Sawer

Performances 
6.6.97 St David's Hall, Cardiff: BBC National Orchestra of Wales / Mark Wigglesworth
31.7.97 BBC Proms, London: BBC National Orchestra of Wales / Mark Wigglesworth
10.9.98 Amsterdam, Netherlands: Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra / Jac van Steen
12.3.99 St John's Smith Square, London: University Orchestra / Patrick Bailey
26.1.02 Hamburg, Germany: NDR Symphony Orchestra / Stefan Asbury
23.4.02 Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus Symphony Orchestra / Stefan Asbury
1.12.02 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival: Orchestra of Opera North / Pierre-André Valade
11.9.03 Vale of Glamorgan Festival: BBC National Orchestra of Wales / Pierre-André Valade
21.9.05 BBC Maida Vale, London: BBC Symphony Orchestra / Martyn Brabbins
19.3.09 Manchester: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra / James MacMillan
14.8.13 Perth, Australia: West Australian Symphony Orchestra / Paul Daniel
3
Flute
2nd doubling piccolo, 3rd doubling piccolo & alto flute
2
Oboe
2nd doubling cor anglais
3
Clarinet
2nd doubling Eb clarinet, 3rd doubling bass clarinet
2
Bassoon
2nd doubling contrabassoon
4
Horn
3
Trumpet
4
Trombone
1
Tuba
3
Percussion
12
Violin
10
Violin II
8
Viola
8
Cello
6
Double bass
1
Harp
(Esc)