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Judith Weir

Publisher: Chester Music

Day Break Shadows Flee (2014)
Chester Music Ltd
Solo Keyboard(s)
Year Composed
10 Minutes
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Programme Note
Judith Weir Day Break Shadows Flee (2014)
Day Break Shadows Flee, written for Benjamin Grosvenor, is a Two-Part Invention, a piano solo composition in which the two hands work in close co-ordination but independently. My intention was generally to avoid using thick chords (although octaves and other clear sonorities are included) while allowing both the right and left-hand lines to be free, mobile and expressive. The treble and bass sectors of the keyboard are clearly contrasted and often widely separated.

In atmosphere and expression the music is another kind of two-part invention, contrasting bright, upwards-arching phrases (heard at the opening and evoking the arrival of light at the beginning of the day) with veiled, mysterious scurryings, suggesting the stranger, more nervous life lived at night and in the early morning.

Day Break Shadows Flee is around ten minutes in duration. It was commissioned by the BBC for the BBC Proms 2014.

(c) Judith Weir, July 2014

Score Sample

  • Ensemble
    Hebrides Ensemble
    Ailish Tynan, soprano
It was much more than a simple exploration of piano sonority, though: featuring complex rhythms and tantalising hints of melody, it often felt as though it wanted to break into some sort of primal dance. It might seem a shame that the Proms season that coincides with Weir’s appointment as the new Master of the Queen’s Music should feature only one of her works, but this 12-minute piece was a gem.
Hugo Shirley, The Telegraph,02/09/2014
It is heartening to see young artists taking up new music and Grosvenor did so in style on Monday with a radiant new work by Judith Weir, recently appointed Master of the Queen’s Music. Day Break Shadows Flee lasts around 10 minutes and Weir, so often the miniaturist, described it as a “big piece for me”. In essence, the music contrasts high and low sounds, gleaming shafts of light against a nocturnal, hazy gloom. Effervescent, rippling motifs create a tightly-organised structure typical of Weir’s music, and Grosvenor, always fastidious about detail, proved an ideal choice to bring her precisely-lit sound-world to life.
Richard Fairman, Financial Times,02/09/2014
Suddenly, everything lit up – with no comparisons to make – in his world premiere performance of Judith Weir’s Day Break Shadows Flee, much the best of the BBC commissions and new, or newish, works I’ve heard at the Proms this season. Passionately and lucidly tonal, the work has the kind of blinding light you hear in some of Britten’s most luminous pieces. [...]The tension between slow, sustained chords and the blue-sky thinking veers more to Tippett, but the 10-minute piece has a purpose and an identity very much its own, an especially clamorous personality owing to Grosvenor’s sharp-focus tintinnabulations.
David Nice, The Arts Desk,02/09/2014
“the piece suggests itself as a restless meditation or an interrupted toccata, and becoming more arresting and personal towards the abrupt close”
Colin Anderson , The Classical Source ,01/09/2014
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