The Moon Sails Out Op.42

Composed: 2010
Duration: 8 minutes
First Performance: 3rd December 2010, Wigmore Hall, London, performed by Bernard Gregor-Smith and Yolande Wrigley.
Commisioned: Bernard Gregor-Smith to celebrate his 65th birthday.

A note for the composer:

It is always a great pleasure to write an ‘occasional’ piece, especially if it is for a friend and so I was delighted when Bernard asked me to compose something to celebrate his special birthday. The nature of his commission was unusually specific, as he wished to have a work that would reflect his close association with Spain. As luck would have it, I had recently set the poem ‘When the Moon Sail Out” by the Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca and so the idea grew in my mind that I could perhaps incorporate elements from this setting into a new work for ‘cello, piano and narrator. The decision to have the poem recited at the beginning of the work gave me the idea to follow it with a long cadenza-like passage for solo ‘cello in which rhythmic and melodic fragments – found in the original song – are initially presented. These ideas are developed as the music gradually builds in intensity, ultimately heralding the piano’s dramatic entry. The dialogue that follows between both instruments, attempts to evoke the surrealist sentiments of the poem’s opening lines as set against the imagery of a moonlit Andalucian landscape. In the central section, the work’s main melodic idea, first heard in the opening cadenza, leads us into a darker, more mysterious sound-world. Here, the music seeks to express the mystery behind the strange words ‘no-one eats oranges under the full moon’, (referring to an old Andalucian tale that suggests if one were to eat oranges under a full moon, one would die!) Fortunately, a reprise of the music’s opening material finishes the work on a note of optimism, which I hope has mirrored in some way not only Bernard’s love of music, but the joy he has given to many people over the last forty years of his remarkable career.