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Jonathan Clinch (organ)


Tombeau for H.B. was commissioned in late April 2022 by the organist and musicologist Dr Jonathan Clinch in memory of Sir Harrison Birtwistle who had died that month. My wife and I had known Birtwistle for many years, she having sung his music and, in my case, he had been a senior colleague and friend over several decades. 

Jonathan Clinch suggested a brief and sustained organ piece as a tribute. The music is based on Birtwistle’s initials, the notes H (B natural) and B (B flat) and, opening out from these two notes – an echo of the beginning of several Birtwistle pieces as regards gesture – on manuals only, treating the two pitches as the fourth and flattened fifth degrees of the aeolian mode on F. When the pedals join, with steady crotchets representing a heart beat, the two pitches are re-interpreted enharmonically as the first and sharp seventh degrees of the dorian mode on B, the music resolving at the close on a B major triad of stillness and peace. 

Robert Saxton May 2022