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Thea Musgrave

Publisher: Novello & Co

Peripeteia (1981)
commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with funds from the Arts Council of Great Britain
Novello & Co Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
15 Minutes

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Programme Note
Thea Musgrave Peripeteia (1981)
One of my favourite works of Schönberg is his Five Orchestral Pieces, and as a student I remember reading somewhere that each of them originally had a title, the fourth of them being Peripeteia. The Oxford English Dictionary informed me that the word meant ‘a turn right about, a sudden change especially that on which the plot of a tragedy hinges’. It seemed to me that one day it would be exciting and challenging to explore this idea in a more extended way, though obviously the content, the musical motifs, would be very different. What interested me was to create a work starting in one mood, then to introduce some kind of ‘event’ which would suddenly upset and change the course of the musical flow.

The opening bars are sunny and bright, and shortly a violin melody emerges, often accompanied by the horns. A softer, lyrical section follows with an important solo for a pair of clarinets, later joined by solo cello. A reprise of the opening material leads to another lyrical section, this time for solo oboe. The next reprise is interrupted by the ‘event’, at first soft and ominous, then building to an overwhelming climax. After this, though most of the themes from the first part reappear, fragmented, dream-like memorise. It’s as if all that is left of reality is a memory.

Peripeteia is thus a kind of opera without words or specific plot. The first sketches were made in the winter of 1980-81 and completed the following summer. The work was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain) especially for a concert celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of Vincent Novello. It was first performed at the Royal estival Hall on the 2nd November 1981 by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the compser conducting.

Peripeteia is dedicated to Sir Denis Forman.

Thea Musgrave

  • 25 AUG 1991
    BBC Radio 3
    BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
    Thea Musgrave, conductor
  • 22 APR 1990
    Frankfurt, Germany
    BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Matthias Bamert, conductor

    Other Dates:
    9 October - Slovenia, Europe
  • 20 JUL 1989
    BBC, UK
    Scottish National Orchestra
    Matthias Bamert, conductor
  • 27 MAR 1988
    Henry Crown Hall, Jerusalem, Israel
    Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra
    Thea Musgrave, conductor
  • 12 MAR 1988
    Maryland, US
    Maryland Womens Symphony Orchestra
    Catherine Overhauser, conductor
  • 14 MAR 1987
    Goldsmiths University Great Hall, New Cross, London
  • 25 OCT 1985
    Usher Hall, Edinburgh, UK
    Scottish National Orchestra
    Matthias Bamert, conductor

    Other Dates:
    26 October - City Hall, Glasgow, UK
    27 October - Aberdeen, Scotland, UK
  • 23 OCT 1985
    Caird Hall, Dundee
    Scottish National Orchestra
    Matthias Barmert, conductor
  • 02 FEB 1985
    St James' Piccadilly, London
    London College of Music Symphony Orchestra
    James Stobart, conductor
  • 02 JUN 1984
    Avery Fisher Hall, New York City
    New York Philharmonic
    Leonard Slatkin, conductor
  • 14 JAN 1983
    Glasgow, UK
    BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Sir Charles Groves, conductor

    Other Dates:
    15 February - BBC Relay
  • 01 AUG 1982
    Edinburgh, UK
    Edinburgh Festival Rehearsal Orchestra
    Harry Legge, conductor
  • 02 NOV 1981
    Royal Festival Hall, London
    Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
    Thea Musgrave, conductor

    Other Dates:
    2 November - BBC Relay

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