The Passing Seasons for Wind Quintet (2008)
Composed by Jonathan Billingham
Performed by Michael Scott (Flute), Rachel Tolmie (Oboe), Carol Irving (Clarinet), Long Nguyen (Bassoon) & Darryl Poulsen (French Horn)
I. Visions of Summer
II. Losing Autumn
III. Winter Dreams
IV. Finding Spring
Visions of Summer is a nostalgic musical reflection of life growing up in the river town of Taree: Summers spent swimming in the Manning River and at the surf at Saltwater and Black Head, playing cricket at grounds all around the Valley and as children playing backyard cricket (often in the middle of the road), and as teenagers canoeing down the Manning without a care in the world.
This movement represents the flourishing of life. The musical themes present in this first movement, Visions of Summer, are explored further in the following movements – as life fades in the cooler seasons.
Losing Autumn is a musical representation of this season’s falling leaves. Many of the melodies begin in the instruments’ higher registers and gradually fall into their lower registers over the course of a phrase. In the flute’s descending passage, the rhythm is constantly turning this way and that, like a leaf being blown about in the breeze as it descends to the ground. In other places, all four woodwind instruments trickle in contrapuntal fashion from their upper registers into their lower registers, as if a gust of wind from the French horn is blowing these leaves out of a tree.
Winter Dreams is intended to reflect the image of an old man sleeping in his armchair beside the fire, dreaming of a distant world and people that are now only a memory.
Finding Spring At the time of writing the early sketches of Finding Spring, the composer was learning the first movement of Beethoven’s Spring Sonata for Violin and Piano. This influenced Billingham’s phrasing and rhythmic organisation of several melodic figures. The opening motif in the flute part recalls the melodic contours of Beethoven’s violin part in Spring Sonata Mvt. 1. However, the melodic reference is set against modal harmonies that deliberately evade the major sequences employed by Beethoven. It is not until the very last phrase when the flute, oboe and clarinet play a harmonized restatement of the opening motif, that we finally hear the original melody underpinned by the major tonic chord. Spring is finally found and life returns.