Book of Hours

Julian Anderson (1967)

Book of Hours 2004

2121-1110-pno(=cel)-harp-sampler trigger keyboard-synth-perc.(2)-11111- electronics
Duration 
19
Publisher 

This piece was inspired by two great works of late Medieval art: the ‘Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry’ and the ‘Tapisseries La Dame à Licorne’ (The Lady and the Unicorn), currently held in the Musée du Moyen Age in Paris. The two parts of this work do not literally portray or depict either of the Medieval artefacts. Rather, the moods, harmonies, melodies and instrumental colours were prompted by them. Also the form of this piece unfolds like a Book of Hours – a sequence of events connected into a chronological thread, each sharply contrasted. Through it all a single unifying idea returns in many guises – the first four notes of the major scale. The real subject of the music is indeed just intervals themselves. I wanted to rediscover for myself what, for example, a major second, a perfect fourth or a fifth could be and how these sounds could be interpreted afresh. There is some use of electronic sound – generally as an extra colour beyond the ensemble sounds, rather as gold-leaf might be applied in a Medieval manuscript.

The two large parts are quite different in character and harmony, as will be immediately apparent, I hope. However, they start with the same music – except that, in Part Two the opening of Part One is played back as if heard on a scratchy, poorly-pressed 33 1/3 record (perhaps from the former Eastern Bloc…I have strong memories of buying such records from ‘Collets’ in London, in order to hear the latest new music from Poland, Russia or Romania). Thereafter Part Two proceeds by recomposing Part One as if in ‘fast forward’; eventually breaking off on a quite different path altogether. There is occasional allusion throughout the piece to the modal techniques of Medieval music, without any literal pastiche or quotation. After a substantial electronic cadenza, the coda introduces new musical ideas over sporadic reminiscences of earlier sections.

Book of Hours was commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group as part of my Composer-In-Association residency, with generous financial assistance from the Michael Vyner Trust and the following Investors through the BCMG Sound Investment Scheme (see score for details). I am grateful to Lamberto Coccioli who provided invaluable assistance with the electronics throughout. Many thanks are also due to the players of BCMG and to Jackie and Stephen Newbould for their help on this project. Knowing I was composing for such virtuosic performers as Oliver Knussen and BCMG was a major inspiration throughout. Book of Hours is dedicated in admiration to Barrie Gavin.

Julian Anderson

Performances 
28.1.05 CBSO Centre, Birmingham: BCMG / Oliver Knussen
29.1.05 RNCM, Manchester: BCMG / Oliver Knussen
12.11.05 Miami, USA: New World Symphony / Oliver Knussen
5.12.05 Queen Elizabeth Hall, London: London Sinfonietta / Oliver Knussen
14.2.06 Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam: ASKO Ensemble / Oliver Knussen
15.2.06 The Hague, Netherlands: ASKO Ensemble / Oliver Knussen
16.7.06 ISCM World Music Days, Stuttgart: Ensemble Modern / Caspar de Roo
28.2.07 Toronto, Canada: Toronto Symphony Orchestra / Oliver Knussen
13.4.07 Carnegie Hall, New York: Zankel Band / Oliver Knussen
29.8.07 BBC Proms, London: BCMG / Oliver Knussen
24.11.07 CBSO Centre, Birmingham: BCMG / Oliver Knussen
18.1.08 Cite de la Musique, Paris: Ensemble Intercontemporain / Susanna Mälkki
6.3.08 McGill University, Montreal, Canada: McGill University Orchestra / Denys Bouliane
8.6.09 Concergebouw, Amsterdam: Asko|Schönberg Ensemble / Oliver Knussen
14.9.09 Sacrum Profanum Kraków, Poland: Asko|Schönberg Ensemble / Oliver Knussen
13/14/15.8.10 Apeldoorn, Netherlands: Nationaal Jeugd Orkest / Christian Karlsen
25.3.12 Victoria, BC, Canada: Aventa Ensemble / Bill Linwood
10.5.12 Umea, Sweden: Symphony Orchestra of Norrlands Opera / Rumon Gamba
12.11.15 Royal Festival Hall, London: Philharmonia Orchestra / Antony Hermus
6.2.16 Bergen, Norway: BIT20 Ensemble / Jessica Cottis
2
Flute
1st plus extra flute and piccolo both tuned down, 2nd doubling piccolo & alto flute
1
Oboe
2
Clarinet
1st doubling Eb clarinet & extra Bb tuned down, 2nd doubling bass clarinet
1
Bassoon
doubling contrabassoon
1
Horn
1
Trumpet
doubling trumpet in D
1
Trombone
2
Percussion
tubular bells, marimba, 2 glockenspiel, large tam-tam, 2 triangle, crotales, bass drum, 15 Thai tuned gons, large suspended cymbal, large side drum
1
Violin
1
Violin II
1
Viola
1
Cello
1
Double bass
1
Harp
2
Piano
1st player piano doubling celesta, 2nd player sampler trigger keyboard
3
Electronics
1 or 2 computers, mixing desk, 6 loudspeakers
1
Other
synthesizer
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