Robin Holloway profile
Compositions by Robin Holloway
Transcriptions by Robin Holloway
Sonata for Violin Solo, op. 47Brand, op. 48The Lovers' Well, op. 49War Memorials, op. 50War Women in War, op. 51
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These five pieces, apparently discrepant, are in fact closely bound together.  I spent the first half of 1981 travelling in South America (sights and sounds experienced there form the basis of the Third Concerto for Orchestra, only completed 14 years later);  then in the U.S.A.  I needed a piano for detailed harmonic working-out, but the next commission, a Sonata for Violin Solo, could be sketched anywhere, and was.  Brand however — the absolute opposite of a commission, this full-evening-length concert ballad for enormous forces on Ibsen's mighty verse-drama! — also loomed powerfully wherever I travelled, till Chicago, Boston, New York, all seen for the first time, blew it aside. 

But on returning to England the huge thing blew them away in turn.  Its dual dedication under the sign of a Brand ("not peace but a sword") looks to the past in hommage to F. R. Leavis ("nor shall my sword"), purifying scourge and morale-builder of my school and student days;  and to the present in my excitement with the music of David Del Tredici, then the composer in person (I lived in his Bank St. apartment for several months while he was away working at some Creative Colony on Yet Another Alice) for the radical simplifying daring of his book with large-scale diatonic tonality. 

The text for Brand was all ready.  So, it turned out, was the music.  It virtually wrote itself, in a matter of weeks.  At a preliminary point I'd approached Geoffrey Hill for help — his superb transliteration hat been staged at the N. T. and was also available to read.  His horror at the mere thought of anything to do with this redhot blackness was memorable.  In the end I'd made my own composite text, as usual:  but had the joy of setting his own lyrics later the same year in The Lovers' Well — I'd heard him read, marvellously, the complete Pentecost Castle cycle some time before. 

War Memorials for brass band (comprising Men Marching and From Hills and Valleys — they share some themes, but also stand separately), tied in with these sombre Northern moods, times, places.  They commemorate WWI from the soldier's viewpoint (both titles are taken from Charles Sorley, killed in action 1915).  Next the home front.  Women in War presents a sweeping panorama of female activity industrial, nursing, domestic, setting fragments of poems (mainly by women but including Gurney, Kipling, Rosenberg) commentary, diary, from the same dark yet supercharged epoch. 

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