Duration: 11 minutes 30 seconds
First Performance: September 1990 by Barrie Moore (violin) and Graham Lloyd (piano), at the Countess of Huntingdon’s Hall, Worcester
The Three Pieces for Violin and Piano Op. 11 were the first works to be written by the composer after he moved to Worcestershire in 1986. Brimming with melodic invention and radiant lyricism, the music is both rich and varied.
Pastorale is inspired by Elgar’s Worcestershire and in particular the Malvern Hills. Venables, like many before him, succumbed to their influence almost immediately and his artistic response to this inspirational environment has remained a touchstone of his aesthetic. In this simple tripartite structure a theme of disarming simplicity becomes the work’s main focus. In the central section the composer unfurls a passage full of ardent lyricism as the piano supports a soaring melody with a luminous accompaniment. The whole of Pastorale uses a surprisingly simple harmonic language, and with the exception of a single bar it does not step outside the orbits of A flat and D flat major. Pastorale ends on a note of hushed repose, and mirrors perfectly the work’s delicate opening.
Music Sample: Pastorale Op.11, no 1
Romance is a more sombre work; a blend of the contemplative, defiant and wistful, and as in Pastorale, with the exception of just one short passage, is serenely diatonic. The opening hymn-like motif immediately evokes a timeless atmosphere. A wistful melody is then passed between piano and violin and leads to a sumptuous interlude marked andante amabile for solo keyboard which is then taken up by the violin. A new faster section imparts greater urgency and leads to a broad and passionate climax of great power and expressive intensity. The initial idea returns, only this time warmer and more expansive as both instruments intone once more, the hymn-like opening with moving eloquence.
Music Sample: Dance Op 11, no 3
Dance begins with a granitic ostinato, which makes its presence felt throughout the majority of this dramatic and vigorous movement. Above this, a risoluto first subject with athletic rhythms alternates between both instruments. A more expressive second subject appears, but here the tone is optimistic. These principal ideas vie for dominance, but not before the hymn-like theme from Romance is presented heroically in octaves by both violin and piano. Acting not only as a bridge passage, this thematic intruder gives a unifying feel to the whole work, as well as providing a moment of high drama. A virtuosic coda ends Dance in an ecstatic mood.