Duration: c. 4 mins.
First performance: Bristol Ensemble (cond. John Pickard). 7th September 2014, St. George’s, Bristol.
Full Score: £8.50
Part of A Modern Menagerie a set of responses to Camille Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals commissioned by NMSW. My response to Tortoises imagines a lively personality, trapped within the hulking, ponderous frame of a giant tortoise.
We begin with our tortoise slowly waking, hesitantly peeking out from under her huge, burdensome carapace. She gazes in awe at the vibrant world around her, marvelling at the grace and speed of the birds and beasts that she sees. Gradually, and with considerable effort, she breaks into a lumbering galumph. But the strain of trying to keep pace with her more energetic neighbours becomes too much and she is forced to rest.
Soon it is midday and the tortoise toils slowly under the wearying heat of the sun. Eventually, she rallies and we hear one last, heroic attempt at activity, before finally she collapses in an exhausted, inelegant heap.
As did Saint-Saëns in the original Tortues, I have included a reference to a well-known existing work as a kind of musical joke. In my piece the quotation has a rather more discreet presence. I wonder if anyone will be able spot it!