quartet for flutes, with piano, bass and percussion
composed in 1991
dedication: Edward Shipley in memoriam
commissioned by the Martin Feinstein Quartet, with funds provided by the Holst Foundation
published by Novello and Co.
first performed by the Martin Feinstein Quartet on January 21, 1992, at St. John's Smith Square, London
recorded by Nancy Ruffer, Nicolas Hodges, Corrado Canonici and Julian Warburton on Metier MSV CD92046
Nocturnal was designed as a tribute to the composer and music-printer Edward Shipley (1941-88), and is a sequence of movements whose overall tone is reflected in the epigraph from Herman Melville's Moby Dick printed at the head of the score:
"Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself: nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power: how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, and not I
But it is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky; and the air smells now, as if it blew from a far-away meadow; they have been making hay somewhere under the slopes of the Andes, Starbuck, and the mowers are sleeping among the new-mown hay. Sleeping? Aye, toil how we may, we all sleep at last on the field "
Ted had a strong understanding of the sea, a deep sense of the numinous, and an innate reverence for the unseen forces which shape life: the music attempts in its own terms to express some like perceptions. The piece requires the flautist to play four different instruments: piccolo, concert flute, alto flute in G and bass flute in C.
The music uses them in something of a solo role, supported by percussion, double bass and piano, so that, in a linear as well as an ensemble context, Nocturnal, is a "quartet for flutes".
There are six sections: