Scored for the same forces as Kurtág’s ‘Grabstein für Stephan’, minus the solo guitar part, Catafalque was written for the Royal Academy of Music’s Kurtag Festival in 2002. The wind and brass surround the audience and only the percussion and strings are left on stage. Something about this arrangement of the players, and the memorial nature of Kurtág’s piece, made me think of a catafalque – the decorative wooden framework that supports a coffin.
The music itself consists of a series of florid mechanisms that are constantly winding down – not just in speed, but always descending in pitch. From these, various long melodies are thrown around the orchestra. About half way through the piece a series of long, loud chords, is fractured across the ensemble. The first half of the piece also exists as a solo piano work.