Secret Garden

Michael Berkeley (1948)

Secret Garden 1997

3(III+picc).3(III+ca).3(II+Ebcl, III+bcl).3(III+cbn) - 4.3.3.1 - timp - 3 perc (vib, sus cym, crotales, SD, clash cym, tam, thundersheet, BD, marac, 3 w blk), hp, str
Duration 
15
Genre 

Secret Garden opens by depicting the barrier that surrounds it – an impenetrable wall of sound from the brass and wind announced initially on the trumpet. The end of the wall is reached only to reveal the beginning once again. The very solidity and mass of this obstacle is both frustrating and exhilarating. For on the other side lies a magical but dangerous landscape. Touch an exotic piece of foliage and it becomes instantly transformed, rears up to threaten ... or embrace. There is a bitter sweet atmosphere in the garden, a faint suggestion of melancholy. Here is found what has so far only been imagined but delight is tinged with fear, excitement. In one direction lies great stillness and space, in another, frantic movement and momentum. Which direction to take?

Secret Garden is closely related to its immediate forebears – Torque and Velocity for the Takács Quartet, and Fantastic Mind, a setting of the libertine poet the Earl of Rochester, for reciter and brass quintet. It is too a prelude, a brief glimpse into The Garden of Earthly Delights (very loosely inspired by the Hieronymous Bosch Triptych in Madrid), which the BBC have commissioned for the National Youth Orchestra under Mstislav Rostropovich. All of these pieces then, explore facets of the imagination, that garden in the mind that so thrills and alarms but, alone amongst the workings of human beings, can never be completely conquered or stolen by another. This in turn seemed an appropriate tribute to the State of Israel (whose birthday I share) where the work is being toured as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations.

Thus Secret Garden, which lasts ten to twelve minutes, ends with a sense of triumph yet to be totally resolved and with an elliptical but organic reference to one of the most striking aspects of the recent and exhilarating partnership between the LSO and Sir Colin Davis.

Michael Berkeley

Comments 

Reduced version available

Performances 
28.1.98 Barbican Hall, London: London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis
3
Flute
3rd doubling piccolo
3
Oboe
3rd doubling cor anglais
3
Clarinet
2nd doubling Eb clarinet, 3rd doubling bass clarinet
3
Bassoon
3rd doubling contrabassoon
4
Horn
3
Trumpet
3
Trombone
1
Tuba
1
Timpani
3
Percussion
vibraphone, suspended cymbal, crotales, side drum, clash cymbal, tam-tam, thundersheet, bass drum, maracas, 3 woodblocks
1
Harp
(Esc)