Flute & Piano, 10'
It was not long into composing this work during the autumn of 2010 that the image of trapeze artists came to me. It is not only the death-defying virtuosity of these performers that inspire the piece but also their grace and elegance.
The opening bars are for piano alone - a solo trapeze artist makes her initial launch. At times she is seemingly hovering in mid-air, the next moment she glides effortlessly across the gaping abyss. The flute joins in, unsettling the peace, counterpointing the piano's poise with bursts of dissonant energy. As the work unfolds, the two performers move in and out of one another's musical orbits, sometimes exchanging and developing motives, at other times appearing to move in complete discontinuity.
An early moment of drama melts away into a graceful and introspective section of music; subtly jazz-influenced harmonies accompany a more sustained, lyrical flute line. Soon enough, the stakes are raised and the music quickens. Jagged cross-rhythms cut across the bar and familiar themes re-emerge, now more darting and urgent. The fine line between virtuosic showmanship and danger draws ever closer as the music propels itself wildly forward. The musical climax erupts with several hazardous leaps before a safe landing and a calmer, sweeter coda.
Trapeze ends with a return to its opening material, now more confident and relaxed. The near calamity, only moments before, was merely part of the act and the two trapeze artists join hands for a final arabesque in perfect unison.
Trapeze is dedicated to its first high-wire performers, Claire Overbury and Elspeth Wyllie, the founding members of the Southbank Duo.