Johannes Maria Staud: Sydenham Music

Johannes Maria Staud Sydenham Music
Sydenham Music

Johannes Maria Staud: Sydenham Music

Year of composition:
Scored for:
for flute, viola and harp
Johannes Maria Staud
Instrumentation details:
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Sydenham Music

Work introduction

When Camille Pissarro first came to London in 1870/71 he was fleeing the Franco-Prussian War and was living in the Crystal Palace area. One of his most beautiful pictures of this time is The Avenue, Sydenham of 1871, which can be found in the National Gallery. This work depicts a scene on Lawrie Park Avenue that is little changed today, even if there are no horse-drawn carriages anymore. It conveys the atmosphere of an early spring day, with oak trees coming into leaf against a soft blue sky.

44 years later, in 1915, three years before his death, Claude Debussy composed his penultimate piece, Sonate pour flute, alto et harpe. This work is strangely muted and fragile, yet bright instrumentation seems to be the epitome of musical impressionism to me, a swan song for a whole era. It is one of Debussy’s most enigmatic and fascinating compositions, about which he said: "This is really melancholic. I don’t know if one should laugh or cry. Maybe both at the same time."

What unites both works for me is the ambiguity between fragility and brightness, precision and blurred lines, melancholy and optimism, pastoral interest and a rational mind. If one believes in synaesthesia (I am not sure if I do), Pissaro’s canvas would surely sound like Debussy’s sonata (and vice versa) ...

After living in Sydenham myself for two and a half years (and tracing Pissarro’s footsteps through Lawrie Park Avenue at least twice a week on my way to Crystal Palace park), I finally felt that it was time to pay tribute to this inspiring suburban area of London in which I have composed quite a few works, most of them orchestral. This time I did an unusual thing, for I chose this most tender instrumentation and tried to write a thoroughly quiet and fragile piece. As it happens, I could not completely do justice to this intention, as a stirring sonority disturbing the apparent idyll forced itself finally and suddenly to the surface.  

Johannes Maria Staud

Special prints

Sydenham Music

Johannes Maria Staud: Sydenham Music

for flute, viola and harp , 7’

Sydenham Music

Johannes Maria Staud: Sydenham Music

set of parts
for flute, viola and harp , 7’

World première

Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Aldeburgh (GB)
Main soloists:
Marie-Christine Zupancic, fl; Christopher Yates, vla; Céline Saout, hp (Mitglieder der Birmingham Contemporary Music Group)

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