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Judith Weir

Publisher: Chester Music

Forest (1995)
commissioned by The John Feeney Charitable Trust
Chester Music Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
13 Minutes
Programme Note
Judith Weir Forest (1995)
I started to write this piece with nothing but the opening melody in mind. As I arranged this apparently simple material for an initial ensemble of four solo violas and cello, the intertwining lines seemed to be sprouting musical leaves; or, in other words, interesting melodic and harmonic fragments were being generated almost as if in a process of nature. After observing a few more pages of these self-propagating complications take shape, I decided on the title Forest. Nearly everything in the piece has grown from the tiny musical seeds encountered in the opening bars, and the composition has unfolded in a particularly natural and organic way.

Within the final pages, a different, more distinct world is occasionally glimpsed. Perhaps this is the forest of folklore and prehistory, rather than the animated and burgeoning biological site examined in the man part of the music. On reaching the conclusion, a region of faint string chords, I felt rather like a fairy tale character pressing deeper an deeper into a mysterious prospect of trees.

Forest was commissioned by the John Feeney Trust and written during 1995. It was first performed in December of that year by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.

© Judith Weir

Preview the score

  • Ensemble
    BBC Symphony Chorus / BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Ailish Tynan, soprano
    Martyn Brabbins
  • Ensemble
  • 13 APR 2018
    City Halls, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
    National Youth Orchestra of Scotland

    Other Dates:
    13 April - Perth Concert Hall, Scotland, UK
  • 18 JAN 2008
    Judith Weir: Telling the Tale
    Barbican Centre, London
    BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Ailish Tynan, soprano; ; André de Ridder, conductor
  • 27 SEP 2003
    Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, UK
    BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
    Gianandrea Noseda, conductor
  • 06 JUN 2000
    Forest Country Premiere
    Radio France, Paris
    Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
    Thomas Dausgaard, conductor

Forest is simply meant to refer to the way in which she found that the “intertwining lines” of the opening passage for four solo violas and a solo cello “seemed to be sprouting musical leaves”; to refer, that is, to the time-honoured musical metaphor of organic growth. It is accurate enough in this case: the clustering leaves are certainly there even if I rarely sensed a real density of trees. Weir’s orchestration is, as ever, too precise and economical, too given to sunny musical clearings, for that. What, indeed, is most striking is the way she is able to extend those intertwining solo string patterns to a quartet of horns, and thence throughout the orchestra, without jeopardising the balance.
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times,01/12/1995
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