Programme Notes

Andrew McBirnie - Wind Quintet

Andrew McBirnie (b. 1971) – Wind Quintet (2002; rev. 2021)

Composed in the summer of 2002, this work was first performed by Harlequin at The Oratory School, Reading, in January 2003.

The musical material, which is predominantly slow and sustained, is based on a Scottish metrical psalm tune, alternately known by the titles ‘Dundee’ or ‘French’, which originated in the Scottish Psalter of 1615 and is most often sung to the words of Psalm 121 (‘I to the hills will lift mine eyes…’).

The tune can be heard throughout the piece, fragmented and distilled into various transposed and altered forms, which often interlock with each other. The opening gesture of the melody, a rising Eb-G interval, is heard on the oboe and clarinet right at the beginning. The texture builds to the central point of the work, where the tune is heard fully harmonised in its original form (marked ppp misterioso), and then dissipates to end with a single Eb held on the clarinet, fading to silence.

The work was revised in 2021 and dedicated to David Penri-Evans, McBirnie’s former teacher, whose music is often characterised by the same kinds of shifting textural interplay heard in this work.

Duration: 7 mins approx

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