126.96.36.199 – 188.8.131.52 – perc1 – strings
Commissioned by The Portsmouth Grammar School
First performance 24 June 2006 | London Mozart Players/Nicolae Modoveanu | Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral
Rain, Steam and Speed was commissioned by The Portsmouth Grammar School for the London Mozart Players, conductor, Nicolae Moldoveanu. The first performance was given on 24 June, 2006 at the Gala Concert of the Portsmouth Festivities (celebrating the life of Brunel) in the Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral.
Turner’s painting, Rain, Steam and Speed, The Great Western Railway (1844) depicts a broad gauge engine steaming across Maidenhead Viaduct, one of Brunel’s greatest achievements. The painting offers several perspectives to the viewer: a dark diagonal of bridge and train, crossing the Thames, intersects visions of tranquillity. To the left, far below, a fisherman sits in his skiff and to the right of the picture a ploughman turns his furrow. Ahead of the train a startled hare, the swiftest of creatures, leaps across the track.
In writing Rain, Steam and Speed, rather than follow a programmatic development of the title I have tried to convey a feeling of wide open spaces and pastoral repose in the opening section. Even the hare (a pair of clarinets) makes a playful appearance. In Turner’s painting the ‘iron horse’ emerges from the distance, pressing powerfully forwards and so, from out of the calm, a clear rhythmic motif, pianissimo at first, rattles to a full orchestral crescendo, then gradually disappears from view.