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commissioned by the Feeney Trust
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'Palintropos' was written on the Greek island of Patmos. While observing the extraordinary changes of colour in the course of a day, I began to form a sound-world of pitches, intervals and instrumentation. The title literally means 'a turning-back structure' and the idea of turning back is essential to the piece. The four virtually continuous and contrasted sections are divided by musical columns which are characterised by pulsating brasses and tam-tam, with widely spaced strings.
Much use is made of the sustaining pedal on the piano and I connect the 'resonances' with the changing colours of the Greek island. Sometimes the piano merely decorates, sometimes it anticipates, but never does it take over completely in a 'concerto' sense.
The last section is the apotheosis of the work, and the piano is at its most active, working independently of the brass chorale-like chords, and the pulsing strings. The music reaches a climax then subsides and finishes as it began on a single held C on the double-basses, a pivotal note of the whole work.
'Palintropos' is dedicated to the Island of Patmos, and written for Stephen Bishop-Kovacevich. The first performance took place on 1st March 1979 at the Town Hall, Birmingham. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Lawrence Foster with Stephen Bishop-Kovacevich (piano). 'Palintropos' was commissioned by the Feeney Trust.
John Tavener 1978
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