Paean was composed in October and November 1971 and was first performed by Susan Bradshaw, for whom it was written, on 9 December the same year at Conway Hall, Red Lion square, London at a ‘Music in Our Time’ concert.
It is in broad ternary form consisting of Toccata- Aria- Paean and the opening Toccata is itself in three sections. Firstly, passages of various lengths characterised by aggressively regular semi-quavers alternate with freer paragraphs employing trills, chords, runs, etc.
Then the free material is developed by interlocking augmentations and retrogrades with the material in its original state, and in the final section the regular semi-quaver patterns are stretched and contracted, transformed by irrational values.
The Aria consists of an extensive, continuously evolving and often florid melody supported by five different types of accompanying figures- staccato notes in free rhythm, reminiscences of the Toccata, rocking shapes, suggestions of a second melodic part, and chords. A passionate climax is reached, then the music evaporates and after a moments of stillness, he same repeated note signal that opened the work launches the final section Paean.
Here the regular semiquavers of the Toccata’s first part reappear but now in a restricted treble compass and a superimposition of the Toccata’s notes upon the rhythmic shapes of the Aria provides a substitute for the original secondary material. The whole of this final section is underpinned by chord clusters whose rhythm is governed by the same proportions that exist between the primary and secondary material. They appear with increasing insistency towards the close.