A Viola on Skye was inspired by a trip to Scotland that included a stay on the Isle of Skye in the depths of winter. The initial sketches for the work were made at the time, influenced by the bleak, barren but richly hued landscape. This is personified by the characteristic timbre of the instrument and accounts for the particular sweep and colour of the music.
The work falls naturally into two parts and can be described as a transition from complexity to simplicity. The first is characterized by a great variety of activity – agitated configurations, short melodic phrases, alternations of sul pont, pizzicato, arco, tremolo and so on. The structure is loosely based on a twelve note series and features a series of twelve groups. These are short sections of music, each emphasising one of the notes of the series. There are only four types of groups used so the first part of the work can be heard as three related variations. The second part of the work uses the series material melodically. It opens with these notes presented in the order and registers established in the preceding part. Ultimately this develops into an extended melodic line with the close of the work attaining the ultimate in simplicity – a repeated note.
1 E flat cornet, 5 B flat cornets, 1 B flat repiano cornet, 1 B flat flugelhorn, 2 B flat 2nd cornets, 2 B flat 3rd cornets, 3 E flat tenor horns, 2 B flat baritones, 2 B flat euphoniums, 2 B flat tenor trombones, 1 G bass trombone, 2 E flat bass, 2 B flat bass, snare drum, bass drum, cymbal.
Taken from the Spanish word ‘Alborada’, Aubade (dawn) references Ravel’s great work Alborada del Gracioso. Opening with slow lyrical section the mood ranges between languid and energetic, contrasting the opening material with characterful Allegro sections. Originally composed for clarinet and piano, the piece was later orchestrated for Frank Gurr, at that time principal clarinet of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
Written for Gavin Saunders, who planned to spend some months on the island of Lifou (French Caledonia) exchanging his music with that of his hosts. Farquhar’s idea was to provide an opportunity for the Lifouans to collaborate in the piece by providing a rhythmic background (clapping), and then taking over the piece to a rousing climax at the end.