The Thaw

Five short character pieces illustrating the end of winter and the beginnings of new life.

Tracks of this work

Here are videos of two of these pieces, The Thaw and Fleeting Clouds:

I started thinking about these shortly after Zoe was born and managed to get round to putting pen to paper at the turn of the year. My thoughts were of birth, new life and the coming of Spring. In writing these I also made a conscious effort to do something a little bit easier to play and more accessible to listen to. I hope you like the results!

The Prelude is an invocation of Winter: frozen, mysterious, quiet and unmoving. The writing here is more dissonant than in the rest of the set, which is a deliberate stylistic decision as the prelude is almost a piece apart. This was written first, and I pulled out two features from the Prelude to form the basis of the rest of the set. First a melodic figure:
and secondly a rhythmic idea:

The Thaw is where the dissonance gives way to melody. This is perhaps the emotional heart of the cycle and therefore lends its name to the set as a whole.

Fleeting Clouds is an example of a slightly misleading title. The operative word here is "Fleeting". Imagine a warm spring day: free of care you lie on the grass in the sunshine staring up at the blue, watching as light fluffy clouds pass by.

Snowdrops is a very delicate piece. For the first time in the set we move into triple time, which means the rhythmic figure changes to
keeping the fundamental idea of the second note being slightly 'early'. It's also worth noting that this piece is entirely in the treble register of the piano -- the lowest note you hear is middle C.

Festival was written rather later than the others. I had always intended to write a lively piece to conclude the cycle, but finishing the Six Images meant writing it got delayed. The result of this is a piece that perhaps doesn't work quite as well as it might have done. It's bright, cheerful and quite a lot of fun to play.

There are a number of influences you can hear in these pieces. There is a deliberate use of some Rachmaninov-inspired harmony at one point, while some of the conception is influenced by Mendelssohn. However, I was rather surprised to discover that some passages turned out rather reminiscent of Shostakovich! That wasn't intentional, but not unwelcome. You won't miss those passages, but I wonder if you will pick up on the Rachmaninov (which was the most intentional allusion).

Performance Notes

These are rather easier pieces to perform than some of the previously published items. Prelude: Winter and Snowdrops in particular present little challenge, while The Thaw and Festival have only limited technical requirements. An intermediate pianist should have little fear of tackling these.

Click through to read about each piece:

1. Prelude: Winter
2. The Thaw
3. Fleeting Clouds
4. Snowdrops
5. Festival

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