Sir Harrison Birtwistle: 4 Songs of Autumn

  • for soprano and string quartet
  • Duration: 6’
  • Soloists:
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st violin
    2nd violin
  • Composer: Sir Harrison Birtwistle
  • Text author: Anonymus
  • Original language: Japanese
  • Translator: Geoffrey BownasAnthony Thwaite

Work introduction

In November 1987 I set out to write a piece for the Sinfonietta's birthday. It was to have been an arrangement of my piece for clarinet and voice, Deowa. After three weeks' work I realised that I would not be within light years of being able to complete it and the project had to be abandoned. So in a fit of melancholy I wrote these four songs for soprano and string quartet.

Harrison Birtwistle

The grasses and trees change their colours,
but to the wave-blooms on the broad sea plain
there comes no autumn.

Reading their wings against the white clouds,
you can count each one of the wild geese flying.
Moon, all autumn night.

When the moonlight starts to seep through the trees,
Autumn has come with trouble, and care.

In the spring haze, dim, disappearing,
the wild geese are calling above autumn mists.

World première

Royal Festival Hall, London (GB)
London Sinfonietta
Main soloists:
Sarah Leonard, S

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