…what was most striking about the 15-minute ‘Divine Radiance’ by Lloyd Moore was not the manifest flair of the chamber orchestral writing or the control of long-range harmonic tension, but the sense of music that was bursting with things to say.
(1989; recomposed 1996-97)
for large ensemble
flute (= piccolo/alto flute), oboe (= cor anglais), clarinet in Bb (= Eb clarinet), bassoon (= contrabassoon), horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion (3 players), piano, celesta, harpsichord, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass
First performance: 11 April 1999, London Sinfonietta, cond: Martyn Brabbins/Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, UK
Listen to an extract below, performed by the London Sinfonietta.
…an explosive, luscious piece in three sections, dense with fluttering, trilling, spiky writing contrasted with silky moments of calm.
Lloyd Moore showed how to write a sure-fire integrated piece in ‘Divine Radiance’…
…Lloyd Moore’s ‘Divine Radiance’ was outstanding, combining an excellent sense of structure, pacing and brilliant orchestration for one of the weekend’s highlights.
Divine Radiance is the earliest work of mine which I still recognise today - my ‘opus 1’, as it were. Originally written while I was a student, I significantly reworked it during 1996-7 as a way of easing myself back into composition after a long period of several years during which I composed nothing of significance at all. The response to the first performance, given by the London Sinfonietta in one of their ‘State of the Nation’ weekends, convinced me that I was right to revive it and prompted my return to composition.
The title of the piece has no religious connotations. It is, in fact, taken from a painting by the early 20th-century expressionist artist Alexej von Jawlensky. Although the painting did not inspire the piece as such, I felt that the image of a geometrically drawn human face paralleled my approach to composing this piece which employs a strictly worked-out, almost mathematical scheme but which I tried to fill out with music of as much vitality and expressivity as I was capable of.
Everything that happens in the piece is in some way related to the nine-note chord which is gradually assembled during the works’ introduction and which recurs at the works’ climax. Viewed another way, the work could be seen as a huge ‘modulation’ from the opening gesture, a grinding fortissimo minor ninth in the bass instruments, to the high, bright pianissimomajor third with which it ends. Within this frame, there are three main sections which form part of a gradual process of intensification: firstly, a slow moving monody in which the melodic interest is entirely in the strings; this spills over into an isorhythmic dance using additive rhythms in which the different sections of the ensemble are highlighted. A driving unison passage, which hammers through the works basic pitch material, prompts the return of the nine-note chord which serves to dissipate the accumulated tension. This is followed by a long fade-out, underpinned by a gently rotating chord rooted on the works’ overall ‘home’ pitch of E flat, which gradually winds the music down to stillness.
Divine Radiance is dedicated to Simon Bainbridge who oversaw the composition of and conducted the original (student) version, and whose enthusiasm for it was a great source of inspiration and encouragement.