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Wind quintet works

Catch Me If You Can

Duration: 14 minutes
Published by Oxford University Press

Audio samples:

  •     Catch Me If You Can

Catch Me if You Can was specially written for the Haffner Wind Quintet. It belongs to a group of pieces (including my opera Baa Baa Black Sheep and the solo viola piece Odd Man Out) that are all connected to or inspired by children and in particular their behaviour and their games. What fascinates me is not just the fun or the invention but the elements of kindness and cruelty that often emerge side by side; the combinations of vulnerability and strength, or resignation and ruthlessness.

The music follows a Sonatina-like structure with a fast-slow-fast pattern. Most of the work is based on the notes that make up the short phrase of wide intervals first heard on the bassoon.

This opening vivo soon develops into multi-textured ideas and considerable friction. By contrast the slow, uncluttered centre of the work is, I think, perhaps coloured by recollections of playing Bartok's piano music for children, which certainly brightened up many a tedious hour for me in my schooldays. I especially liked the simple but rather wistful and melancholy folk melodies that so attracted Bartok. The last movement is a chase but once again there are some rather nasty and unexpected twists and turns.

Catch Me if You Can was commissioned by the National Federation of Music Societies with funds provided by BT and the Arts Council of Great Britain for the Haffner Wind Ensemble of London for the inaugural NFMS/BT Making More of Music Educational Artists Tour 1994.

© Michael Berkeley

Re-Inventions

Duration: 12 minutes
Published by Oxford University Press

One of my favourite pastimes is playing through the keyboard music of J S Bach, and I am especially fond of his two and three-part inventions. I decided to arrange four of them for wind quintet, using my own ornamentation.

In the case of the second piece, in Eb, I had the impudence to be slightly dissatisfied with the ending, so restructured the piece by means of a repeated passage, to give a greater sense of conclusion. Having completed this task for my own amusement, Peter Cropper asked if I could also create some original material to complement the Bach for a concert that was being given by the Haffner Wind Quintet as part of the Sheffield Festival in May 1995. Using a modicum of common sense, I decided that it would be tempting providence to try to set any contrapuntal ideas of my own against those of Johann Sebastian. So instead, I have given each of the instruments a short line that meditates on what has just passed, or on what is just about to happen. However, it was always my intention that the music could either be performed as a continuous whole or as straightforward transcriptions without the interlinking commentaries.

© Michael Berkeley