Simon Holt - Capriccio Spettrale

Several of Simon Holt’s works have conveyed something of the dark light of Spain, whether by way of Lorca’s poems or Goya’s imagery. Tonight’s opener, despite its Italian title, is an example, being a musical glance at the nightmare visions of the etchings Goya published as Los Caprichos. Hence this capriccio, which is spectral not in the sense of being eerie and wraithlike (except at moments) but rather in being brilliantly coloured, as well as generally loud and strong. It starts from an alternation between emphatic tutti music and the livelier material with solo flute to which that music leads. Later episodes include a passage in bright chords, a short slow strain for bass clarinet with low string trio, and a solo for piccolo trumpet, this moving the music towards its animated central development. Eventually that development exhausts itself, and trumpet and horn call out, their echo taken up by muted strings. The fantasy is almost over, but not quite. Holt wrote the piece in 1988 to a commission from the radio in Stuttgart, and won awards for it from the Performing Rights Society and the Royal Philharmonic Society. Tonight’s performance introduces a new version written for BCMG with support from the Sound Investment scheme.

Paul Griffiths

First performed by BCMG conducted by Diego Masson on 16 October 2009 at CBSO Centre, Birmingham.