Palace of the Winds Anthony Gilbert

Palace of the Winds cover
Duration
15 mins
Composed
2003
Published
2003
Categories

Large Ensemble Solo Strings

Instrumentation
6 Violin, 2 Viola, 2 Violoncello, 1 Double bass

Purchasing options

Score ISMN 57020-729-9 £30.00 Buy now
Parts ISMN 57020-730-5 ––– Available for hire

11 solo strings

Programme note

Hawa Mahal, the 'Palace of the Winds', dominates the vibrant centre of Jaipur. It is a building full of contradictions: elaborately ornate in its tall façade, plain and simple behind; a unified whole embodying the most diverse detail.  Intended as a domain of both entertainment and containment, its 144 tiny casemented windows seemingly provided the women of the 19th-century royal household with a view of parades and displays on the maidan below without breaking purdah. Writers describe it as being in the form of a crown, screen or even pyramid, but to me its curved outline most suggests a huge, 5-storey burqa.

The music you will hear is a reflection as much upon the social implications of the Palace’s existence as upon its striking Rajput architecture, which features traditional Hindu domed canopies over casements in russet sandstone decorated with marble filigree in the Islamic manner. The piece could be a dance and a song, but for me it represents also a sculpture in sound. In its modal lines with set degrees of vibrato, sustained pedals and cyclic rhythms, it follows principles learnt from Hindustani classical music, but there are also rampageous rhythmic and harmonic techniques developed from progressive jazz. Conflicts and contradictions abound both on and beneath the surface. The music has two essential elements: a brief warm chorale and a cold spare chant. Each of these generates its own extended elaboration: the chant gives quiet, rapt polyphony and the chorale a series of precise, vigorous dancing structures building to solid 11-part harmonies. Everything is related; nothing is repeated literally. Sensuous harmonies appear within passages of strong dissonance; dreamy melodic lines interact with piled-up parts in rapid parallel motion. The flow is largely seamless, the underpinning structural divisions are regular if slightly asymmetrical. The music builds stage by stage to a turreted high point before returning via chant and chorale to the longest, most elaborate passage of murmured polyphony - almost a lament.

Palace of the Winds is dedicated to the memory of composer and organist Janet Owen Thomas, who died of cancer just a year before I began the piece, and who visited Jaipur with me in 1988 at a time when, having shed her own metaphorical burqa, she was beginning her long struggle towards ultimate recognition as a composer.

The work was commissioned by the Goldberg Ensemble, who gave its first performance in Southampton, in February 2004.

Premiere
Goldberg Ensemble, Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton, 5th February 2004
Performances
  • 27 Feb 2004 |

    The Venue, Leeds College of Music

    |

    Goldberg Ensemble

  • 22 Feb 2004 |

    RNCM Brown Shipley Concert Hall, Manchester

    |

    Goldberg Ensemble

  • 18 Feb 2004 |

    Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York

    |

    Goldberg Ensemble

  • 17 Feb 2004 |

    Elvet Methodist Church, Durham

    |

    Goldberg Ensemble

  • 13 Feb 2004 |

    St John's-in-the-Square Church, Wolverhampton

    |

    Goldberg Ensemble

  • 6 Feb 2004 |

    St George's Concert Hall, Bristol

    |

    Goldberg Ensemble

  • 5 Feb 2004 |

    Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton

    |

    Goldberg Ensemble

Recordings