WORKS FOR SOLO INSTRUMENTS AND CHAMBER ENSEMBLES

Op. 4 - Four Winds

Scored for various wind instrumental ensembles

The four pieces collected as Four Winds were never intended to form a complete whole, and indeed are all scored for different combinations of instruments.

 

The first, the Melodic Variations first performed in 1971, were written for the same ensemble (3 flutes and 3 clarinets) as the second, Psalm 23, which was performed a year earlier; but in the intervening year the school ensemble concerned had lost its third flautist.

 

The short piece for two recorders and piano or harpsichord entitled Mead beneath the leaves includes a reworking of material from an earlier song, the Drinking Song included in the Tolkien Songs Op 7; but the outer material is entirely original.

 

The set also includes a reworking for wind quintet of his earlier piano piece The Iceberg, his only purely dodecaphonic work, and was designed to bring out the linear nature of the part-writing in a way that the piano could not (the original version was finally included in the collection of Eight Studies Op 43).

Op. 6 - The Wanderings of Óisin

Scored for 7 clarinets

The suite The Wanderings of Óisin was written, as may well be imagined given the extravagant nature of the scoring for seven clarinets, for a specific group of players in London in 1970.  This was the first appearance of material which afterwards reappeared in the chamber opera The Dialogues of Óisin and Saint Patric, and was also incorporated into sketches for a full-scale cantata on the same subject from which excerpts were subsequently published as Three partsongs Op 22. The second section of the suite, however, was derived in its turn from the prelude to the second act of his opera Diarmuid and Gráinne on which he was working contemporaneously.

The score opens with a long-limbed theme for Óisin which leads into the opening scene by the shores of a lake where Niamh, the maiden from the Land of Youth, first comes to Óisin.  Her opening words from the poem by William Butler Yeats - Why do you wind no horn, and every hero droop his head? - are inscribed in the score. Óisin responds with a passionate declaration of love - the words You only will I wed - are given above the first clarinet part, which is overlaid with a full-blooded statement of his own theme.

 

The second section depicts the journey across the sea to the Land of Youth, and a slow winding melody unfolds over the sounds of a lilting jig. This leads into the third section, depicting the Island of Dancing, where the grass itself sings God is Joy and Joy is God. The next section depicts the Island of Forgetfulness, where three themes wind around each other in an unchanging wheel while the lower melody remains obstinately unchanged. This leads to an extended dialogue for Óisin and Niamh, where yet again words from Yeats are inscribed in the score:

Lo! love we go

to the Island of Forgetfulness,

for the Islands of Dancing and of Victories

are empty of all power.

And which of these is the Island of Content?

None know.

The next section depicts the farewell of Niamh to Óisin - Oh flaming Lion of the World, when will you come to your rest? - as she permits him to return back across the sea to the lands of mortality, where he will wither and grow old, and the accompaniment depicts the tangled murmur of the waves. At the end Óisin himself dies, and his theme fragments and fades away into oblivion.

  It will be noted that the events outlined in the suite form a prelude to the action of The Dialogues of Óisin and Saint Patric, where the death of Óisin is treated in much greater depth.

Op. 19 - Variations on a Welsh Bardic Melody

Scored for piano or harp

The original version of the Variations was devised for piano, and was commissioned for Gavin Parry who gave the first public performance in 1979; but it was always possible for the work to be played on the harp, and the original manuscript (now in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth) contains indications of the pedal changes required for this.

 

The piece is constructed as follows:

Introduction

I              Theme   Lo stesso tempo

II             Passacaglia   Lo stesso tempo

III           Chorale   Lento moderato

IV           Meditation   Adagio

V             Dance   Vivo quasi valse

VI           Interlude   Meno mosso

VII          Madrigal   Lento e rubato

VIII        Dialectic   Maestoso

IX           Jig   Presto

X             Funeral march   Marcia funebre

XI           Finale   Tempo primo

Some years later Paul made a second arrangement as a concertante piece for piano and orchestra; but the score for this has been lost, and the variations finally found a place in an abridged form as the first part of the orchestral work The water is wide.

Op. 27 - Saxophone Sonata

Scored for tenor saxophone and piano

This Saxophone Sonata was commissioned by Philip Ayrton and was first performed by him together with Anthony Green in 1976.  The second and third movements were both partially derived from earlier songs: the dance-like scherzo from Those dancing days are gone, the second of the Three early songs Op 3; and the blues-influenced finale from Monotone, the second of the Three partsongs for mixed choir Op 22.

Op. 32 - Flute Sonata

Scored for flute and piano

This Flute Sonata was commissioned by Ray Lewis and was first performed by him in 1976.  The work was originally in four movements, but some of the material from the final movement was later detached for use in the later work Daeron and the work was finally published in three movements, which remains the preferred form for performance. The final movement was however restored for the version as published in the collected edition in 2002, although some of the material was re-used in Daeron.

Op. 32 - Three Romances

Scored for violin and harp (or oboe and piano)

This work written in 1981 for violin and harp is drawn from sketches made in the 1970s for an unfinished series of music dramas based on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. In 2000 an alternative version was prepared for oboe and piano.

The first movement originated in a setting of the Eagle’s song of victory in The Return of the King

The second and third movements derive from settings of The Hobbit, and both are drawn from the final act of the opera Fire and Water.  The second movement is a rather free arrangement of an interlude in the final act following the death of Thorin Oakenshield, and takes shape as a lament and funeral march. 

 

The third movement is a transcription of the closing scene of the opera, with Bilbo’s song Roads go ever on and on followed by the music that accompanies his return to the Shire and a peaceful conclusion.

Op. 42 - Akallabêth

Scored for solo piano

(orchestral version is Op. 42a)

During the late 1970s work on The Silmarillion began with two works drawn from the earliest published version of that extraordinarily disorganised torso as edited by Christopher Tolkien. One of these was the Third Symphony, Ainulindalë, which was founded on Tolkien’s superlatively atmospheric depiction of the creation of Middle-earth through the medium of music. The other came from almost the other end of the ‘legendarium’, a symphonic poem in rondo form for solo piano based on the Second Age story of the doomed kingdom of Númenor and its downfall in the Akallabêth. This was written at the request of James Meaker, who had asked for a ‘really testing’ concert work; but in the event it had to wait for its first performance for many years until it was taken up by Connor Fogel. (In the meantime an abridged version of the score had been orchestrated as a more conventional symphonic poem.) Here the musical parallels with the score for The Silmarillion cycle are many and various.

 

The piece opens with the theme associated with Ilúvatar, the ‘Elder King’ and creator spirit of Tolkien’s mythology, rising slowly from the depths in massed fourths, and then fragments downwards into the plunging theme of the Earth itself, Arda in Tolkien’s nomenclature. As this resolves into a gently rocking motion, the main theme of the rondo is stated, illustrating the passage “Then the Edain set sail upon the deep waters, following the Star; and the Valar laid a peace upon the sea for many days, and sent sunlight and a sailing wind, so that the waters glittered like rippling glass.” After this initial statement of the theme, we hear the theme of the Valar themselves stated twice before a much more grandiose statement of the rondo theme: “Then they went up out of the sea and found a country fair and fruitful, and they were glad. And they called that land Númenor in the High Elven tongue.”

 

One of the many writings for The Silmarillion which Tolkien abandoned unfinished was the story of  Aldárion  and  Erendis,  a tale of doomed love set amid the pastoral landscape of Númenor. This forms the basis for the next section: a gently lyrical melody which gradually becomes overshadowed by the themes associated with the revival of evil in Middle-earth, and musical motifs associated with Sauron and the Ring. When the rondo theme returns again it is now assailed by small pecking figures which both ornament and begin to overshadow the principal melody; and the theme of Sauron himself forms a sinister undertow. Years pass, and the shadow begins to fall on Númenor until, in Tolkien’s words “there came to Númenor the masters of ships and captains sailing out of the East; and they reported that Sauron was putting forth his might, and he was pressing down on the cities of the coasts. And the King resolved to challenge Sauron, and he set sail with a great navy.” The slow movement of the sea heard at the outset now rises to a storm, and the lyrical melody associated with Aldárion and his pioneering voyages to Middle-earth now assumes a stern military aspect. The theme of Ilúvatar too now adopts a more menacing undertow in the bass.

Finally the rondo theme returns, now vaingloriously ornamented with trumpet-like fanfares and braying figurations; and beneath it the theme of Sauron now emerges with growing strength, unsettling the bass line of the piano and progressively overwhelming it. “So great was the might and splendour of the Númenoreans that Sauron humbled himself, doing homage and craving pardon. It was not long before he had bewitched the King and was master of his counsel; and he lied, declaring that everlasting life would be his who possessed the Undying Lands.” The gradual corruption of the Númenoreans is graphically illustrated as even the theme of Ilúvatar himself is overshadowed by the machinations of Sauron, until finally the braying discords show the military strength of Númenor readied for battle: “And the King prepared then the greatest armament that the world had seen, and when all was ready he sounded his trumpets and set sail, going up with war to wrest everlasting life from the Lords of the West.”

 

Sudden quiet descends as the armada of Númenor sails westward, with the theme of the Valar returning over a gently rocking bass line which in The Silmarillion is the theme  associated  with  Sauron’s  master  Morgoth; and there is a quiet sense of anticipation. What happened next is vividly illustrated in Tolkien’s words: “But when he set foot upon the shores of the Undying Lands, the Valar laid down their guardianship and called upon the One, and the world was changed. Númenor was thrown down and swallowed in the sea, and the Undying Lands were removed for ever from the circles of the world.” The opening material returns in even more frenetic form, and the theme even of Sauron’s Ring evaporates in the wind as the destruction of Númenor is accomplished.

 

The final section of the work is a funeral march over an insistent drum-like beat, where the rondo theme makes a final appearance as the central section in the lament which surrounds it. The atmosphere here conjures Tolkien’s description “And even the name of that land perished; but the exiles on the shores of the sea, if they turned towards the West in the desire of their hearts, spoke of Akallabêth the Fallen, Atalantë in the Elven tongue.” This section also found its way, transfigured and altered, into the closing pages of both The Fall of Gondolin and The Lay of Eärendil; but here, in its original form, the final chord is completely different – a heavy emphasis on all the notes of the theme of Ilúvatar played simultaneously, an evocation of divine wrath and judgement. 

A recording of this work by Conor Fogel is commercially available on the album Akallabêth and other Tolkien works.

Op. 43 - Eight Studies

Scored for solo piano

The Eight Studies were written over a considerably period of years, and were collected for publication in this form only in 1998.  All were originally written for solo piano, and are studies in the most obvious sense of the word. Several were written for specific occasions, and others were designed as exercises in various forms of compositional technique.

 

A number have deliberate references, thematic and stylistic, to other composers ranging widely from Puccini to Schoenberg and from Satie to Tippett. The final brief fantasia derives from a reworking of an equally brief phrase from The Nightingale and the Rose.

 

There is no link between the individual pieces other than by virtue of their being short (all under three minutes) and written for the piano; and there is no intention to regard them as constituting in any way a coherent whole.

  1. Romance

  2. Waltz

  3. Fantasia on Waly Waly

  4. Habañera

  5. Saint Michael

  6. Reverie

  7. The Iceberg

  8. Fantasia in Two Parts

Op. 45 - Daeron

Scored for solo flute and piano

The romance for flute and piano Daeron was written in the late 1980s as a ‘spin-off’ from the work on The Silmarillion which was then proceeding apace. It was always intended, for example, that the opening section would be used in orchestral form as the prelude to Scene Four of Beren and Lúthien, although it derives originally from the opening of the much earlier song The Sea Bell; but the final stark recapitulation was entirely new, and it was only much later that it was in its turn orchestrated to form the interlude at the end of the Fourth Scene.

The story of Daeron, the minstrel of Doriath, figured prominently in Tolkien’s earliest versions of the story, but in later writing he became more peripheral and indeed disappeared almost totally from the closing stages of the plot. This piece was intended to illustrate the final section of the legend as it eventually emerged: “It is told in that time that Daeron the minstrel strayed from Doriath, and was seen no more. He it was that made music for the song and dance of Lúthien; and he had loved her, and set all his thought of her in his music. But seeking for her in despair he wandered upon strange paths, and passing over the mountains  he  came  into  the  east  of  Middle-earth,  where for many ages he made lament beside dark waters for Lúthien the daughter of Thingol, most beautiful of all living things.” The piece consists of two full statements of the melody associated with the hidden elven Kingdom of Doriath, the first warm and confident but the second fragmented and desolate. Between the two we hear fragments of the flute figuration that in The Silmarillion accompanies Lúthien’s dance when Beren first encounters her beneath the trees. The middle section however was derived from the rejected fourth movement of the Flute Sonata.

Op. 49c - The Fall of Gondolin Wedding March

Scored for solo piano or harp

The wedding march from scene seven of The Fall of Gondolin separated out for concert performance by piano or harp.

Op. 51 - Rainbow Fanfare

Scored for three trumpets, two trombones, timpani and cymbals

The very brief Rainbow Fanfare for three trumpets, two trombones, timpani and cymbals was commissioned as an introduction for a stage show, and consists of a brief paraphrase of the well-known song I am what I am from Jerry Herman’s musical version of La Cage aux Folles.

The audio below has been created using samples to give as realistic an impression of the piece as possible.

Op. 51 - Rainbow Fanfare

Op. 53 - Willow Pattern

Scored for panpipes or flute, 2 violins, 2 percussion, piano, celesta and harpsichord

The long minimalist exercise Willow Pattern was written originally purely as an experiment, to see how much duration and variety could be extracted from a basically very primitive idea founded on an oriental pentatonic scale.

 

However the work has been sufficiently approved by several listeners to make Paul think that it might have a degree of more considerable worth.

The audio below has been created using samples to give as realistic an impression of the piece as possible.

Op. 53 - Willow Pattern

Op. 55 - Three Romances for Harp

Scored for solo harp

The Three romances for harp date from widely differing periods.

 

The first movement was written in the late 1990s as an imitation-minimalist piece, and the third is a study in counterpoint from the same period.

 

The second movement, however, is much earlier and began as an independent piece for solo Celtic harp written in  the late 1970s. 

 

It  was  then  adapted  for use in the children’s opera The Children of Lyr, and the main theme found its way into the  central section of the Wedding March from The Fall of Gondolin

 

In the current version the original score is followed by a series of variations which in their turn are derived from the later workings of the theme in The Children of Lyr.

Op. 61 - Territory

Scored for flute, harp, timpani and strings

The opening theme on lower strings is stated as an ostinato bass underlying first a further direct transcription of the same theme at half the original speed, and then a flute melody which becomes steadily quicker and more impassioned and highly decorated.

As the music gathers speed it moves into 3/4 and a new theme enters in the middle strings over a rapid timpani heartbeat. This is a transcription of a melody used by John Taverner and is then repeated by the flute, when the words are inserted into the score:

                O Western Wind, when wilt thou blow?

                The small rain down doth rain.

                I would my love were in my arms,

                and I in my bed again.

The melody is repeated again by the strings over richer harmonies, and is then interrupted by a return of the opening theme, now chromatically altered and delivered in full strength by the strings interspersed with reminiscences of the earlier flute melody.

The opening ostinato material returns, now in a somewhat abridged form, and is then overlaid with the Taverner Western Wind theme once again on the flute (by a very happy coincidence it fits exactly).  The ostinato bass dies down, and the final chord is a sustained B minor under which the original theme throbs for one last time on the timpani.

Op. 63 - Lullaby

Scored for flute, clarinet and harp:  or 2 violins and Harp

Like the earlier Territory, this uses the same opening theme but now this is absorbed into an ostinato pattern on the harp over which first the other instruments sing a minor-key melody. The harp takes up the melody, transforming it into the major over a more elaborate accompaniment into which the ostinato is absorbed; but then the opening material returns, and the music turns back to a more melancholy minor key.

 

Only in the final bars does the key return to the major, against which the harp’s final statement of the opening theme strikes an uneasy but sympathetic note.

Op. 68 - Umbar

Scored for organ

In the mythology of Tolkien Umbar is the haven where the ships of the Númenoreans land during the Second Age for their conquest of Middle-earth, The opening and closing passages represent the forbidding landscape of the inlet—which Tolkien nowhere describes, but which I imagine as being enclosed by towering cliffs.

 

The central section quotes the passage from the Akallabêth which describes the voyage of the Númenorean fleet across the ocean and their landing to the sound of trumpets. This landing will eventually lead to the downfall and destruction of the island of Númenor, and the music is suitably menacing.

Op. 69 - Trafodaeth

Scored for string quartet

The Welsh title means Discussion or Conversation, and the music for this string quartet movement derives from various sketches which he made during walks in the countryside and forests around Wernddu in 2010. During these walks he was often accompanied by a friend and his dog, and the themes reflect their discourses about various widely diverse topics.

There are two principal themes, one representing himself and the other his companion, which are passed from instrument to instrument within the quartet but remain unchanged throughout. The other instruments reflect either the topics they discussed, or the sounds of nature which surrounded their conversations. Towards the end a new theme of a folk-like character emerges, which is again surrounded by the voices of nature and humanity as well as the existing two themes.

The themes in themselves are not subjected to development or variation, but instead pass through a series of vignettes as different topics and landscapes surround them like hints of shadows and patterns of leaves. Some passages are revisited and envisioned in a new light, as muted strings emerge into full daylight like sunshine emerging from behind clouds. Only at the very end does the music move to another key, as new vistas open out before them. Where these vistas will eventually lead remains unresolved.