commissioned by Michael Webber for English Heritage to celebrate the 10th birthday of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission
Salamander was commissioned by Michael Webber for English Heritage to celebrate the 10th birthday of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, and was first performed at Kenwood Lakeside on June 25, 1994, by the Grimethorpe Colliery and David Urquhart Travel Yorkshire Imperial Bands, conducted by Geoffrey Brand.
The composer writes:
"According to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, a Salamander was, in ancient times 'a mythical lizard-like monster that was supposed to be able to live in fire, which, however, is quenched by the chill of its body… [The name] was adopted by Paracelsus as the name of the elemental being inhabiting fire (Gnomes being those of earth, Sylphs of the air, and Undines of the water)' It is the latter definition that was the inspiration for this piece, which is in the form of a passacaglia (variations on a ground bass).
The ground bass tune is heard in the opening section both rising, and descending, a series of full chords with the notes of the tune at the top. There follow contrasting sections, culminating in a vigorous fugal section whose tune is a variations of the main theme, and a final blazing statement of the original chorded version of the ground."