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Simon Holt

Publisher: Chester Music

Sparrow Night (1989)
Commissioned by the Nash Ensemble
Chester Music Ltd
Soloist(s) and Large Ensemble (7 or more players)
Year Composed
17 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Programme Note
Simon Holt Sparrow Night (1989)
Sparrow Night is composed for a mixed chamber ensemble of ten players with an important solo part for the oboist Gareth Hulse, whose playing I have long admired. The title stems from a Chekov story cited by Raymond Carver in his final book of poetry, A new path to the waterfall, in which terrible nights with thunder, rain and wind are called by some people 'sparrow nights'. Chekov goes on to describe one such night in his hero's life where his sleep is disturbed after midnight. Feeling himself oppressed with a terror, 'as though I had suddenly seen a vast menacing glow of fire', he hurries to the window to find that the weather is magnificent and cloudless, with a serene very bright moon, and perfect stillness. His spine however, is cold 'as though death were coming upon me stealthily from behind'.

© Simon Holt

  • Ensemble
    Nash Emsemble
    Fiona Kimm, mezzo-soprano
    Lionel Friend
  • 08 MAR 2011
    Holywell Music Room, Oxford
    Oxford University Sinfonietta
  • 19 NOV 2009
    Cologne, Germany
    Ensemble 20 / 21
    David Smyers, conductor

    Other Dates:
    20 November - Wuppertal, Germany
    21 November - Aachen, Germany
  • 30 MAR 2004
    Simon Holt Portrait
    Granada, Spain
    Arantxa Armentia, mezzo; José Luis Estellés, conductor

    Other Dates:
    31 March - Seville, Spain

Holt built up timbral processes of great density that, above all in Sparrow Night, became really vehement and accentuated the dramatic character of the text selected for this work, where the fundamental concepts are terror and death…it was in the most intimate moments, with less instrumental density, when the music became even more thrilling. (Translated by Shelley Hughes)
Pedro Ordoñez, La Opinion de Granada,4/1/2004
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