Troubled Light

Simon Holt (1958)

Troubled Light 2008

1+pic+2afl.1+2ca.1+2bcl.1+cbn/4.3.2+btbn.1/2perc/hp.cel/str
Duration 
21
Genre 
Commissioner 
Publisher 

I read somewhere that it was Goethe who described colour as troubled light. With that in mind I decided this could be the starting point for a series of five short orchestral pieces; four orchestral sketches leading up to a final piece which uses elements from them all.

The first movement is called 'the fell of dark', which comes from a line from the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, "I wake and feel . . .":

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light's delay.

The second movement, 'rudhira', takes its title from the sanskrit word for red; the first colour ever named. The piece is a flash of wild red and is the briefest of the set.

'Ellsworth' follows this, named after the great American abstract artist, Ellsworth Kelly, renowned for his painting of flat, deceptively simple, geometrical shapes which he saturates with a single colour, on occasion juxtaposing them with similar shapes in radically contrasting colours. I have taken as a starting point his painting 'Yellow relief with black' from 1993; a large, acid yellow triangle surmounted by a much smaller, black triangle. The piece follows the shape almost to the letter.

'Huye luna, luna, luna' is a line from the Lorca poem, 'Romance de la luna, luna'. It's mostly scored for the string section, although there is some vestigial use of timpani, percussion and harp. The poem tells of a moment when the moon, in all her starched whiteness, takes a child by the hand and they fly across the sky together.

The words 'Mehr Licht' (more light) are reputed to be the final utterance of Goethe himself. This, the last movement, is by far the longest of the five and is an attempt, on one level, to draw the various elements of the whole piece together.

Simon Holt

Performances 
25.7.08 BBC Proms, London: BBC National Orchestra of Wales / Thierry Fischer
24.1.09 BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff: BBC National Orchestra of Wales / Jac van Steen
3.2.11 Royal College of Music, London: RCM Orchestra / Diego Masson
4
Flute
2nd piccolo, 3rd & 4th alto flute
3
Oboe
2nd & 3rd cor anglais
3
Clarinet
2nd & 3rd bass clarinet
2
Bassoon
2nd contrabassoon
4
Horn
3
Trumpet
3
Trombone
3rd bass trombone
1
Tuba
2
Percussion
1
Harp
1
Piano
celesta
(Esc)