The circling canopy of night

Hesketh, K. (1999) The circling canopy of night. [Composition]


For large chamber ensemble, duration 25 minutes. This work was premiered in November 1999 in Birmingham by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. "The Circling Canopy of Night is scored for sixteen players, the idea of which was suggested by various texts on the subject of the medieval concept of the universe. According to this concept, the medieval universe was constructed vertically, top to bottom, with the earth as the lowest point and the Empyrean as the highest. Whereas our view of the universe is expanding, cold, dark, infinite, theirs was ordered, fixed, logical and full of light. The work falls into the following sections (which are played without a break): Primum mobile / Regions of the Air / Stellatum (i) / Infortuna major / Stellatum (ii) / Fortuna minor / Stellatum (iii) / Mercurius / Ascendit in Caelum / The first section presents much of the material used throughout the whole piece. Three-part polyphony and textures, as well as various rhythmic doubles, abound. In fact three is a potent number in the work, not only in overall proportions but in the structure of sub-sections; a thrice returning horn theme (progressively more hidden and truncated on each reappearance) in ‘Regions of the Air’, for example, divides the structure into three varied refrains and two subsidiary sections. Another example is the conclusion of the entire piece, which is a series of nine repetitions of a three-note chord heard on bells, vibraphone and piano. The Circling Canopy of Night completes a trilogy of works entitled ‘Trinita’, the other pieces being Theatrum and Torturous Instruments. / The Circling Canopy of Night was commissioned jointly by Faber Music for its Millennium Series and by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. This work received its initial performances in Birmingham and Paris in November 1999 under Sir Simon Rattle, and in London in May 2000 under Oliver Knussen." © Kenneth Hesketh. A SoundCloud recording by the London Sinfonietta conducted by Oliver Knussen is available on the audio tab below.

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