(1975) An improvisation on a theme
For solo flute and tape
Commissioned by the BBC Transcription Services
See also Orfeo II and Orfeo III
World Premiere: 4 July
1976, Chichester Festival
James Galway, flute
Publisher: Novello & Co Ltd
This work was originally commissioned by the BBC Transcription Service for James Galway as a work for solo flute and tape (Orfeo): all the music on the tape would be an electronically treated recording of James Galway playing a variety of different flutes. It was first performed by him in this version in 1976.
Orfeo II was written shortly after, and here all the music on the tape was distributed amongst 15 strings.
Though this work is intended as a concert piece, it was also projected as a ballet for solo male dancer. It is a simple retelling of the famous legend. The flute (and dancer) represent Orfeo; all the other elements and characters in the story are represented by the music on the tape or on the strings. In any staged version they must remain invisible, though their presence can be indicated by lighting effects or even projections: Orfeo's journey to the underworld exists only in his imagination. To heighten the effect of this separation of reality and imagination, much of the music of Euridice, the Furies, the Shades, is suggested by "memory elements" that is, quotations from the Orfeo of Gluck. They are woven into the fabric of the music. The whole work is thus focussed on Orfeo; on his mourning for Euridice and his vain attempts to recover her. In the end he has to resign himself to her loss.
Patricia Spencer, flute
James Galway, flute, pre-recorded tape
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