Campane in Aria (2006)

Programme Note: John Buckley

Campane in Aria was commissioned by the National Concert Hall, Dublin to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of its opening in 1981. I have been privileged to be associated with the National Concert Hall over that period through performances of my compositions and through directing numerous education and outreach programmes and many pre-concert talks.

It is a special honour and a somewhat daunting task to be commissioned to compose a new work for the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra to mark such an illustrious and auspicious occasion as this anniversary. In Campane in Aria I have attempted to capture an atmosphere of jubilant celebration and excitement for a great occasion.

Campane in Aria (Bells in the Air) is a direction occasionally given to the horn section in the orchestra indicating that the bells of the instruments, which normally face away from the audience, should be raised in the air. The effect on the sound is resonant and exhilarating and can be observed in the closing moments of the piece. The title Campane in Aria of course also refers to the sense of celebration associated with bells ringing and the tintinnabulation of glockenspiel and vibraphone, along with marimba and xylophone is a prominent feature of the middle section of the work.

The piece is in a single movement of approximately seven minutes duration. The opening and closing sections are fiery and dramatic in character. Here, I have attempted to create a feeling of energy and forward momentum impelled by a strong sense of rhythmic vitality and explosive orchestral gestures. The orchestral writing is bravura in character with frequent changes of metre and orchestral textures.

These sections flank a somewhat more restrained middle part, which apart from one vigorous gesture from the whole orchestra, tends to focus on quieter sonorities and textures, with woodwinds and tuned percussion playing prominent parts. This middle section is not so much a contrast as a quieter reflection on the musical material of the opening. Tuned percussion instruments create a bridge to the exuberant concluding section, which culminates with brass fanfares and bells in the air.

Campane in Aria was first performed in the National Concert Hall, Dublin on September 9th 2006 by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gerhard Markson.