clarinet, 'cello and piano



From 2000 onwards I have written a host of piano pieces, almost like keeping a little diary, or musical journal. The pieces are mostly tiny and have been collected under the title shivereens, which is an old colloquial Scottish term for fragment or shard. Some pieces are written on the spur of the moment, others are excerpted from longer works, or tangential jottings on musical ideas used elsewhere. Shards consists of four of these pieces, dressed up for clarinet, ‘cello and piano. 

diminishing returns is a technical exercise where two little ideas, a motoric theme and a repeated chord figure are presented alternately, yet throughout the piece the repetitions shorten, diminish, and collide. The original material comes from my opera the uninvited from a market scene in south London that ends in a riot. on hearing an aria by handel is a little elegy in memory of a friend, Nancy, prematurely taken away by cancer, who introduced me to the music of Handel, and instilled a love of this music that has never left me. This little piece takes a shard from an aria from Ariodante (1735). my secret mongolia is a transcription of a tiny fragment of folksong heard on the Mongolian steppe at sunset sung and played on a morinxuur (horse- headed fiddle) by a tribesman. can we have a tango please mr. ogawa? was written for my eldest daughter, as when we lived in Japan, she was taken to school by a driver, Mr. Ogawa, who was a keen ballroom dancer and who played dance music in the car of a morning. Hattie liked tangos, and took to requesting them. I imagined a car radio that had many stations, all of them tuned to tangos; the piece jumps abruptly between different styles of tango.

© Julian Grant 2008

1. diminishing returns
2. on hearing an aria by handel
3. my secret mongolia
4. can we have a tango, please, mr ogawa?

First performed 7 May 2008 by Keith Lipson, Zhu Mu, Michelle Yip. Western Academy Concert Hall, Beijing

Listen to SHARDS on SoundCloud

See also SHIVEREENS for piano.