25 Aug 2018

Lyell CRESSWELL: Of Smoke and Bickering Flame

From Music Alive, 7:31 pm on 25 August 2018

Performed by the Auckland Chamber Orchestra conducted by Peter Scholes at its concert in the Raye Freedman Arts Centre, Auckland, 29 April 2018.

Gustave Doré illustration for Milton's "Paradise Lost"

Gustave Doré illustration for Milton's "Paradise Lost" Photo: Public Domain

Of Smoke and Bickering Flame is a concerto for orchestra and takes its title from a passage from John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

"And from about him fierce effusion roll'd
Of smoke and bickering flame, and sparkles dire"

… it’s describing Messiah driving his chariot into the midst of his enemies on the third day of the battle against Satan and his Angels.

Milton continues: “Unable to resist, […] they leap down with horror and confusion into the place of punishment prepared for them in the Deep. Messiah returns with triumph to his Father.”

Lyell Cresswell says he imagines Satan’s followers in “the Deep”, faced with many conflicting emotions, including nostalgia for their past condition.

Of Smoke and Bickering Flame is in 8 sections:

I - Con Fuoco (with fire)
II - Sospirando (sighing)
III - Nostalgia 1 - piacevole (agreeable)
IV - Gorgogliante (babbling or bickering)
V - Soave (light and delicate, or a cool white wine)
VI - Animato (lively)
VII - Nostalgia 2 - sfogato (airy, light and easy - a term sometimes used by Chopin to mean this)
VIII - Infocato (red hot)

The two "Nostalgia" movements are based on external melodies. The quotation of Chopin's A major Prelude in the second of these is easily recognisable. The first "Nostalgia" movement, however, contains a melody of mysterious origin. Lyell Cresswell says, "I made it up (sort of), but it must be something. I must have dredged it up from somewhere. I hope some time someone will be able to tell me what it is, or, at least, what it nearly is."

Of Smoke and Bickering Flame was written in 2002 after a commission from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Recorded: Raye Freedman Arts Centre, Epsom Girls Grammar School, 29 April 2018
Producer: Tim Dodd
Engineer: Adrian Hollay

 

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes