Jack Hawes
Pieces of Eight

I - Preludio; II - Arietta; III - Scherzetto e Trio; IV - Chorale; V - Alla burlesca

The influence of folk music on the contemporary composer Jack Hawes is particularly apparent in the first and last movements of this work. The Preludio uses a four-bar fragment of folksong which is treated imitatively within the combination, and, at several critical moments during the course of the movement, with the octet playing this theme in bold unison. The graceful Arietta which follows passes a simple folklike theme from oboe to flute, with interjections from the clarinets. A slower passage in the middle of the movement assigns more prominence to the lower instruments, with bassoons alternating between accompanimental bare fifths, and strands of the tune; the opening theme then returns.

The next movement is a small-scale Scherzo, with a playful, staccato first section which exploits contrast of the various families of instruments. The more subdued Trio section, by way of contrast, is smoother, sparsely scored, and throws the theme around the ensemble by imitation, before the return of the first section. The following Chorale - so called because of the simple, joyous quality of its theme, and its harmonic treatment, reminiscent of sacred music - is a short and tranquil movement. The finale is indeed, as the title suggests, in the manner of a Burlesque (a humorous piece involving parody), as it is the movement which most clearly exemplifies the folk music influence of the work. The lively, dance-like sections of the movement, in which metamorphosized versions of the folksong are treated imitatively, are twice interrupted by slower, more expressive passages in which the folk melody which forms the basis of the music, 'Early One Morning', is literally quoted. CMW

© 1998 The Arethusa Ensemble