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
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