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John McCabe

Publisher: Novello & Co

Red Leaves (1991)
commissioned by the ECCO with funds from the Arts Council and the Istanbul Festival
Novello & Co Ltd
Sub Category
Chamber Orchestra
Year Composed
12 Minutes

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Programme Note
John McCabe Red Leaves (1991)
This work was commissioned by the European Community Chamber Orchestra with the aid of funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain and the 1991 Istanbul Festival. The first performance took place on 11 July 1991 in Istanbul.

The idea for this piece occurred several years before the opportunity of writing it arose - it was during a journey in New England, in autumn, when the leaf colours were especially beautiful. Both the harmonic 'colouring' and the descending string phrase heard after the brief introduction derive from this experience. The piece is thus a miniature tone-poem, scored for an orchestra of two oboes, two horns and strings. The wind instruments, except for a few solos, are treated as pairs throughout. There is a deliberately allusive element in this work, in that the opening oboe theme recalls the style of the great American nature-poets, such as Copland and Barber, while the chromatic sensibility of the harmonic idiom forms part of a similar European tradition exemplified by, in particular, Delius and Szymanowski.

© 1991 John McCabe

  • Ensemble
    Brunel Ensemble
    The Edgr:
  • 01 SEP 2015
    Presteigne Festival
    St. Andrew's Church, Presteigne, Wales
    Presteigne Festival Orchestra
    George Vass, conductor
  • 04 FEB 2015
    St John's, Smith Square, London
    Orchestra of St John's
    John Lubbock, conductor
  • 14 NOV 2014
    Christ Church, Malvern, UK
    English Symphony Orchestra
    Kenneth Woods, conductor
  • 04 MAR 2010
    King's Place, Hall 1, London
    Orchestra of St John's Smith Square / Choir of Colet Court School
  • 29 AUG 2009
    Presteigne Festival
    St Andrew's Church, Presteigne, Wales
    Presteigne Festival Orchestra and City of Canterbury Choir
    Pippa Goss, soprano; Katherine Allen, mezzo soprano; James Gilchrist, tenor; Michael Bundy, bass; Richard Watkins, horn; George Vass, conductor
  • 29 AUG 2009
    Prestiegne Festival
    St Andrew's Church, Prestiegne, UK
    Presteigne Festival Orchestra
    George Vass, conductor
  • 29 NOV 2008
    St. John's Church, Waterloo, London
    Sinfonia Tamesa
    Tom Hammond, conductor
  • 22 NOV 2008
    Royal Academy of Music, London
    Royal Academy of Music Junior Department Sinfonietta
    Matthew Taylor, conductor
  • 18 APR 2007
    Orchard Theatre, Dartford
    Orchestra of St John's

    Other Dates:
    19 April - Music Hall, Shrewsbury
  • 14 OCT 2005
    Stratford Festival
    Orchestra of St. Johns
  • 12 MAY 2005
    Victoria Theatre, Halifax
    Orchestra of St John's
  • 05 JUN 2003
    Town Hall, Reading
    Orchestra of St John's
    John Lubbock, conductor
  • 30 MAR 2003
    Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canade
    Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
  • 17 JAN 2003
    St John's Smith Square
    Sound Collective
    Tom Hammond, conductor
  • 16 NOV 2001
    Troy Music Hall, Albany
    Albany Symphony Orchestra
    David Alan Miller, conductor

    Other Dates:
    17 November - Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, New York City

'Scored for strings with pairs of oboes and horns, this persuasive 10-minute gem’s stimulation owes to New England, the music autumnal in both inspiration and feel. McCabe’s craftsmanship is typically impeccable. A sense of passing informs the opening oboe solo. The strings suggest a mystical landscape (Stonehenge came to my mind) and the interweaving horn parts always engage the ear. Indeed Red Leaves is full of incident and expression, touching the heart and freeing the imagination in this sensitive and skilled reading.'
Colin Anderson, Classical Source,04/02/2015
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