Guardare, meravigliarsi…

Five nocturnes for solo piano (2021)

Duration: c. 17.5 minutes (2’30” + 4’30” + 3’30” + 3’30” + 3’30”)

Guardare, meravigliarsi… is a collection of five nocturnes, each of which attempts to create the illusion of a multiplicity of layers within a single instrument. The title is from a recurring libretto line and musical figure in Luigi Dallapiccola’s major opera Ulisse: “Guardare, meravigliarsi, e tornar a guardare” (‘to gaze, to marvel, and to return to gazing”), representing the questing, visionary spirit of Ulysses, as well as being a metaphor for the process of composition itself. 

1. Notturno sospeso: a rising figure separates the registers of the keyboard into something like a ‘sky’ and a ‘sea’, with a ‘suspended’ melody poised to dip downwards at any moment. 

2. Notturno in riflessione: one single melody is ‘reflected’ softly into the middle register; a world of mirrors where every figure is sometimes exactly imitated and at others distorted.

3. Notturno ghiacciato: A slow, 3-part canon ‘freezes’ into a landscape of widely-spaced chords from which tendrils of the opening almost succeed in escaping.

4. Notturno in ommagio: The opening bar of Gabriel Fauré’s mysterious final Nocturne slips into a hommage-commentary on Fauré’s own pianistic world, before atomising into a wild middle section of keyboard extremes. The return of the Fauré material extinguishes into silence.

5. Notturno corrente: ‘Flowing’ from one idea to the next, this nocturne takes the material of the other four and creates continuity. Its final slow section is a commentary on the phrase from Dallapiccola, finding an uneasy repose somewhere between his harmonic practice and my own.

These nocturnes may be played individually or in any combination/ shorter sequence, however if Nocturne No. 5 is performed, it must always be played last.

Some suggested alternative orders:

2, 4, 5
4, 1, 5
3, 5
1, 4, 2
1, 3, 4, 5

Listen to Jack Symonds perform the complete work

Score samples here

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