Nocturnal, Op. 33

quartet for flutes, with piano, bass and percussion
duration 20'
composed in 1991

dedication: Edward Shipley in memoriam

commissioned by the Martin Feinstein Quartet, with funds provided by the Holst Foundation

published by Novello/Wise Music


first performed by the Martin Feinstein Quartet on January 21, 1992, at St. John's Smith Square, London

also performed by students at the RNCM in 1993/1994


recorded by Nancy Ruffer, Nicolas Hodges, Corrado Canonici and Julian Warburton on Metier MSV CD92046

Metier cover

programme note:

Nocturnal was designed as a tribute to the composer and music-printer Edward Shipley (1941-88), and is a sequence of movements whose overall tone is reflected in the epigraph from Herman Melville's Moby Dick printed at the head of the score:

"Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself: nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power: how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, and not I…

But it is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky; and the air smells now, as if it blew from a far-away meadow; they have been making hay somewhere under the slopes of the Andes, Starbuck, and the mowers are sleeping among the new-mown hay. Sleeping? Aye, toil how we may, we all sleep at last on the field…"

Ted had a strong understanding of the sea, a deep sense of the numinous, and an innate reverence for the unseen forces which shape life: the music attempts in its own terms to express some like perceptions. The piece requires the flautist to play four different instruments: piccolo, concert flute, alto flute in G and bass flute in C.

The music uses them in something of a solo role, supported by percussion, double bass and piano, so that, in a linear as well as an ensemble context, Nocturnal, is a "quartet for flutes".

There are six sections:



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