Heralds of Good Fortune
Brown, James Francis
This wind quintet was specifically written for the enjoyment of able amateur players. Unusually, if features the cor anglais and basset horn as principle instruments doubled by their normal counterpart (oboe and clarinet) in the central movement alone.
From the composer’s programme note:
Writing a work in celebration of a wedding anniversary, for friends, provided the perfect opportunity to indulge in symbolism. For me, it was the kind of symbolism found in folk-tales and fairy-tales - the meaningfully surreal world of Alice in Wonderland and the collected myths and legends with their mediaeval literary accretions. The rather dark and ‘reedy’ qualities of the chosen instrumentation suggested the subject matter of each movement and it wasn’t long before something of a musical yarn began to emerge.
The Herald ushers in the theatrical proceedings with fanfares and an air of bright pageantry.
The Ravens are the next protagonists to enter; much maligned as harbingers of death on the battlefield, they are respected in many cultures as symbols of wisdom and foresight. They are endearing birds who mate for life - but it’s never a good idea to encroach too closely on their conspiratorial huddle.
The fairy-tale continues with The Rose and here is a presentation scene - a tale of courtly love in which the purer, luminous tones of the oboe and clarinet change places, only for this movement, with the cor anglais and basset horn.
The Yew Tree plunges into a mysterious world of great age, of mists, druids and arcane ritual. As epochs flair-up and fade-away the yew tree stands - a survivor through the millennia.
Finally, the Roundelay - which is, in this case, a kind of rondo based on the nursery rhyme Lavender’s Blue. The ravens make a brief reappearance before setting flight over the lavender fields. This is a celebration of marriage - ‘When I am king, dilly, dilly, you shall be queen’ - and this slightly longer movement is drawn to a close when the herald steps forward and the ‘curtain’ falls.
Heralds of Good Fortune is a fantasy for all the family but parental guidance may be advised; it does have moments of mild peril…
James Francis Brown, April 2015