Ruhe sanfte, sanfte Ruh' David Lumsdaine
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Ruhe sanfte, sanfte ruh’ (Rest safely, safely rest) was composed in Durham during December 1974. Though commissioned by Roger Woodward, in the event, it was Ron Lumsden who gave the work its first performances.
My room at the Music School overlooked the cathedral; composing there meant that I was always hearing my music through the bells of that great building. Late in 1974, the music department at Durham University bought a Bösendorfer concert grand piano, a gorgeous instrument which I had mostly to myself during the composition of Ruhe sanfte, and it was inevitable that I should explore bell-like attacks and resonances through the wide variety of tone and dynamics available on the instrument. And for some unknown reason, just before I embarked on the piece, I became obsessed with the final chorus of the St Matthew Passion. There was no way I could escape its harmony which refused to resolve at the cadences.
Bells and Bach: together they presented a sound barrier. How to get to my composition through it? I approached it in the spirit of solving a Zen koan: discover the music which floats through their sounds. So Bells and Bach are present at every moment in the piece, and they can be heard most easily as dying harmonies drift into silence.
The work was completed in December 1974 and is dedicated to the memory of a dear friend who died just after I began the sketching. It lasts 20 minutes.