Piece of the Week 50: Reflections, for cello and piano

Many years ago, I took part in a rather innovative Anglia TV documentary. It was about Constable Country – the land around the river Stour near Dedham, on the Essex-Suffolk border, where the painter John Constable grew up and painted many of his most famous paintings. But rather than being a mere travelogue, this programme sought to combine painting, poetry, and music, by inviting three creative artists to respond to the landscape that inspired Constable, and to his paintings themselves. Thus, the painter John Addyman, the poet Kevin Crossley-Holland, and I spent some time steeped in the landscape and responded in our own way. I found myself setting some of Kevin’s poetry to music, studying John’s paintings (as well as Constable’s), and providing instrumental music that would accompany the various landscape images in the film. But, unusually for a composer, instead of writing the music after the film was complete, my music was required first, and the film was fitted around it to some extent, though some of the music was designed to be faded in and out as required. The music was all recorded in studio in an old house somewhere near the Suffolk coast – I can’t remember where now – and the baritone James Meek, the cellist Joanna Borrett, and the flautist Duke Dobing, were joined by me on the piano.

I recently found an old VHS tape of the TV documentary (made in 1989), which I’m hoping to get digitised – but in the meanwhile I do have an audio recording of some of the musical sections, and so I’d like to introduce my piece Reflections, for cello and piano. This piece was directly inspired by the paintings of both artists, who, in their very different ways, liked to study and paint the reflective images in the always moving water – and I’ve recently taken that original recording and added reflective images of trees by the River Stour, a few miles upstream from Constable Country, but on the edge of the town of Sudbury, where John Addyman lived and worked. Here is a link to some of John Addyman’s Suffolk paintings.

Here is a link to a performance of Reflections (with images and score), played by Joanna Borrett and myself, and here is a link to obtain the sheet music.

And here is a link to Joanna Borrett’s Soundcloud page, where you can hear her beautifully playing her own music and that of others.