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01684 773883

Peter Lawson
SONG OF THE SWORD-LEAVED HELLEBORINE
for alto sax and piano
Goodmusic GM197

Catalogue Number: GM197

ISMN: 9790222304642

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Sonatina of the Sword-Leaved Helleb image
The Sword-leaved (or Narrow-leaved) Helleborine, Cephalanthera longifolia, is a fairly substantial orchid, growing up to 60 cms in height. It can easily be distinguished from its nearest relative, the White Helleborine, by its very long, erect and narrowly-tapering, dark-green leaves which collectively appear in the shape of a fan. The slightly whiter flowers, with the 'poached-egg'-like, yellow-gold markings on the lower lip, are seen more clearly than in the White Helleborine, as nearly all the flowers open up, being only pollinated by small bees, rather than the plant's mainly self-pollinating relative. Each spike has up to twenty flowers, each one's anther being hinged so as to spring back into place when the insect retreats.
The Sonatina of the Sword-leaved Helleborine is in four movements and, as in the other orchid portraits, a colour-coded harmonic scheme is employed. The white, yellow-gold and green chords of the plant are dramatically intoned at the outset of the first movement, Introduction and Longifolia Song, with suitably striking flourishes from the saxophone giving way to a simple melody above the colour chords' sequence. The second movement, Below the Boughs of the Beech, likewise spins a tranquil tune above the pattern of colour-coding. The third movement is lighter in mood, once again using the colour chords as its starting-off point. As its title, A Visit from Small Bees, suggests, there are hints of pollination and indeed of flirtation!
The fourth movement is entitled Hornpipe and Sword-Leaved Fugue. The Hornpipe (a characteristic dance from Britain and Ireland) has a hint of Ragtime and suddenly gives way to a fugue, whose subject is long and is fancifully intended to resemble the running of one's finger along one of the sword-like leaves. Rather than a Hornpipe, there is a resemblance to the last movement of Mozart's 3rd Horn concerto. Gradually the Hornpipe infiltrates the Fugue until the point of irritation at which point the piano quotes the last movement of the 4th Concerto instead. The ensuing chaos can be likened to a musical sword-fight with the right and left hands in two different keys suggesting the Laurel and Hardy theme above the mocking augmentation of the fugue subject in a third key from the saxophone. The hornpipe cheerfully returns and, apart from a sinister taunt from the fugue near the end, all is well at last! Peter Lawson
Duration 10 minutes

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