Musica Notturna for Violin, Viola and Piano (1964)
Lento - Allegro - Andante molto - Allegro
This piece was composed for Martin Milner, then leader of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, who had given the first performances of my first violin concerto, and was originally scored for Violin, Viola and Piano. The version with Cello instead of Viola was made during the early 1980s for the New England Ensemble, of the University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales. It is in a single movement, with several clearly defined sections. The slow introduction presents the two main ideas, a bitonal piano chord and some melodic lines for the strings. These lines are handled through the work very much as a theme in a set of variations, and their most essential elements are pairs of minor thirds and a close group of semitones.
Apart from the slow opening, which returns at the end to conclude the work, there are three main sections. Two are marked Allegro, both rhythmical and virtuosic in character, while the central part of the work (Andante molto) is a slow passacaglia, starting quite bleakly but gradually building up to a massive chordal climax. The title of the composition indicates the basic image behind the music, the contrasting moods and aspects of a great city at night.
© 1991 by John McCabe