I. Catterline in Winter for orchestra (2016)
Helen Grime’s Two Eardley Pictures is a two-part work inspired by a pair of paintings by Joan Eardley (1921-1963). The British artist, born in Sussex but growing up in Glasgow, spent the end of her short life in Catterline, a small fishing village in the North East of Scotland. Catterline in Winter and Snow are part of a series of landscapes depicting the rugged beauty of her home. These pictures stirred strong memories for Grime, who grew up in Macduff in Banffshire, not far from Catterline.
Grime was intrigued by the way Eardley returned to the same subject matter throughout her life, painting the same scenes throughout the year from different angles and at different times of day. In her own Eardley Pictures, Grime has not tried to depict the paintings in sound, but has used the artist’s approach to create different ways of handling the same musical material. In this case, both pieces are united by the subtle use of a local ‘Bothy Ballad’, The Scranky Black Farmer.
Catterline in Winter has a slowly evolving structure that uses the same material in different registers, rhythms and orchestrations. The piece begins from a pulsing string figure layered with brass chorale and clarinets, and emerges into a violent woodwind tutti. This slowly mutating material is interrupted by three exuberant episodes inspired by the sun breaking through the leaden darkness in Eardley’s picture. Submerged motifs burst from the gloom, and the piece ends with a vivid brightness.
Published by the BBC Proms 2016, Prom 27
II. Snow for orchestra (2016)
Helen Grime’s Two Eardley Pictures is a two-part work – the first of which was heard in Prom 27 – inspired by a pair of paintings by Joan Eardley (1921-1963). The British artist is well known for her portraits of street children in Glasgow and for a series of landscapes depicting the rugged beauty of Catterline, a small fishing village in the North East of Scotland where she spent the end of her short life.
Catterline in Winter and Snow both evoked powerful memories for Grime, who grew up in Macduff in Banffshire, not far from Catterline. Grime was intrigued by the way Eardley painted the same scenes throughout the year from different angles and at different times of day, and used the artist’s approach to create different ways of handling the same musical material.
In Snow, Grime captures the stark contrasts of the Scottish landscape. A clamorous woodwind tutti at the opening of the piece is intercut with a simple, plaintive clarinet melody. This is derived from The Scranky Black Farmer, a melancholic Bothy Ballad – named after the huts where the poor labourers lived – which forms the harmonic basis of both pieces.
Grime uses the piobaireachd principle (a form of theme and variations common to Scottish folk music) to transform this melody throughout the piece. By the time the original Scranky Black Farmer melody appears in the piccolo and trumpet towards the end of the work, it is combined with a highly ornamented woodwind motif, and is then woven into dense motivic string figures which end submerged in darkness.
Published by the BBC Proms 2016, Prom 30
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