Jane O'Leary: A Winter Sketchbook


Jane O'Leary -A Winter Sketchbook

Sometimes strange coincidences happen which result in interesting new discoveries. One day last December I was sitting at my computer, deciding on the programme for rarescale’s February concert at The Forge. The concert was for a slightly unusual combination – low flutes, bassoon and violin, and I had a few ideas for pieces, but there were some gaps. This London concert is also part of our ‘premiere series’ – the concerts (currently 3 a year) where I have complete free reign with programming, and I like to include a combination of pieces that are new to rarescale as well as some of our ‘old favourites’. With this concert I was lacking good new pieces – and just as I was pondering the possible solutions, I had an email from Jane to tell me about her work for alto flute and violin. We had never met, and she was essentially ‘cold calling’, but the timing was spookily perfect! I often discover a lot of interesting repertoire from composers getting in touch like that, and that’s one reason I’ve kept rarescale’sCall for Scores open since 2003.

Jane’s email was a particularly good bit of timing – but her piece is also fantastic, so I leapt at the chance to perform it. It was written in 2015 and premiered by members of her ensemble, Concorde. Our performance will be the UK premiere.

One of the things I love about this piece is the colours Jane creates, and the changes of textures between the two instruments. There’s a lot of detail in the music, but also a lot of space, and one can really feel the wintry atmospheres she was experiencing when she composed it. As this piece was written for two players she has worked with for a long time, the challenge will be to bring something of our own personalities into the music, without veering too far away from what has happened in previous performances. There are moments of strictness and moments of freedom (actually not all that different from working with Michael Oliva’s electronics in some ways) and the piece is a duo in the truest sense – each of us has to combine timbres, expressions and interpretations to create a convincing dialogue which does justice to the music. I can’t wait!

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