Breaking the Silence
This work draws its inspiration from probably the most famous of all haiku, Matsuo Basho’s 17th century classic, Frog. One of many translations:
Breaking the silence
of an ancient pond
a frog jumped into water
– a deep resonance
The First Movement begins with Zazen, a meditation to achieve deep serenity so that any chance thing – even the leap of a frog into a pond — may reveal the essence of existence. Zazen leads into kawazu tobikomu (frog jumps in), which is marked “with mischievous fun”: the frog is seen as releasing joyous energy.
The Second Movement, furu ike ya (old pond), evokes enlightenment. A second, more troubled theme suggests that enlightenment is not achieved easily. The first theme returns to bring the movement to a gentle end.
The Third Movement, mizu no oto (water’s sound), begins with a leap and a plop, as if the frog’s jump into the pond spills water which forms an ever-growing cascade. The cello recalls the zazen theme before soloist and orchestra rush towards a triumphant conclusion.
Ithaca is inspired by C.P. Cafavy’s famous poem of that name. The poem does not recount the travails of Odysseus but is, rather, a gentle illustration of the philosophy of Epicurus — a philosophy of understanding and acceptance.
A quiet first movement invites a pause for reflection. The second movement evokes life with all its adventures, tragedies and joys … finally, a life understood and accepted with gratitude.
Not Going Quietly
This work was written in memory of Aaron McMillan, an Australian pianist with a promising concert career ahead of him, who died from a brain tumour at the age of 30.
The First Movement expresses the cruelty of his illness and a sense of horror at his rapidly impending death. The final bars suggest that death has triumphed.
The Second Movement is a lament and a consolation.
The Third Movement bustles with the joy and energy of artistic creation — qualities which defined Aaron. Days before he was to walk on stage for a major recital, he collapsed — he died shortly afterwards. Aaron did not go quietly; neither does this piece.
In these short pieces, intended to evoke particular scenes, the mood is quiet, even a little wistful, with a slight bluesy feel — well suited to the oboe.
— George Palmer
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