CDE84535 Cabinet of Curiosities - Chamber Music of John Woolrich

Cabinet of Curiosities

Cabinet of Curiosities

Product Description

Cabinet of Curiosities:
Wind and Piano
Chamber Music of John Woolrich
new london chamber ensemble

Lisa Nelsen - Flute, Melanie Ragge - Oboe
Neyire Ashworth - Clarinet, Meyrick Alexander - Bassoon
Stephen Stirling - French Horn
with Julian Jacobson - Piano

A Book of Studies Set 1 for Wind Quintet (1993)
A Cabinet of Curiosities for Piano, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Horn (1993)
Favola in Musica I for Oboe, Clarinet and Piano (1990)
A Book of Studies Set 2 for Wind Quintet (1993-4)
Darker Still for Flute and Piano (2001)
A Book of Studies Set 3 for Wind Quintet

INTERVIEW with Melanie Ragge

Sound Sample

These three sets are each made up of shards and fragments of ticking clocks, broken melodies, capriccios, unison lines and chorales. There are six epigrams in the first set, five in the second and eight in the third (which was written for the new london chamber ensemble). They are chippings from the workshop: each tiny fragment is a seed for a future piece or an echo from a past one.


Schumann's shadow lies behind this piece. The sixth movement is a transcription of a puzzle piece, Rebus, that Schumann wrote as a birthday present for his daughter. It is a musical cryptogram: the notes of the tune spell the words: 'Lass das Fade, fass das Echte' (Leave the cheap, grasp the true).

There are nine short movements, all containing ghosts of the Schumann:

1 A prelude for clarinet

2 A chorale

3 A song for bassoon

4 A variation on Rebus

5 'Still'

6 'Rebus'

7 'Nightfall': a line passed from clarinet to horn and falling, in fifths, into the dark.

8 Another chorale

9 A farewell, 'Lebewohl', a song for oboe, which casts shadows into the rest of the ensemble.


'Darker Still', written in 2001 for Emily Beynon, explores the outer edges: the dark and the bright sides of the flute's voice, lyricism and brutality, movement and stillness, the clear and the muffled, song and silence, are set against each other. As the piece progresses the lights are snuffed out and shadows creep in, leaving the flute singing broken tunes in the dark. 'Darker Still' starts with a bang and ends with a whisper.


This 'fable in music' is a retelling of Claudio Monteverdi's madrigal for two voices 'O sia tranquillo il mare'. Whether the sea is calm or rough, says the poet, he will remain waiting for his love to return. But there is no sign of her, and his laments are carried away on the winds: “Never, never shall I leave here.”

There are a number of other allusions to the sea, melancholy and separation: Dorabella and Fiordiligi invoke calm winds for their lovers' sea journey in 'Cosi', Monteverdi's Penelope waits for Ulysses, and there is an echo of Tristan's castle in Brittany.

In May 1990 while I was writing this work another great Venetian composer, Luigi Nono, died. Like Monteverdi he wrote music haunted by death and the sea. I have woven a thread of Nono's music through this lament.

©John Woolrich 2006

John Woolrich

A much commissioned and frequently performed composer, a highly creative teacher and an original programmer, John Woolrich is an important figure in British musical life. His output covers all genres and has been championed by, amongst others, the Britten Sinfonia with whom he is currently Associate Composer, the BBC, Nicholas Daniel, Joanna MacGregor and Steven Isserlis. His successful collaborations with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group have led to his appointment in the 2002/3 season as their Artistic Associate. His 50th birthday was recently celebrated with concerts by the Schubert Ensemble and the Orchestra of St John's. He was Guest Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival in 2004 and is Associate Artistic Director of the festival from 2005.Cabinet of Curiosities