The Swan from Birds, Op.66 by John W. Duarte


This recording is from Arne Brattland’s first recording from 1987, Grieg, Duarte and Biberian.

Birds, Op. 66 was written in response to a commission from the Italian music publishing house of Zanibon. Composers have portrayed birds since early times, which, since most birds sing, is hardly surprising. However, in very few cases (that of the cuckoo is one) is birdsong clearly enough defined to permit its translation into musical sounds that may be used thematically. In this Suite the birds are sketched, not in terms of their song but of their characteristic behaviour or “image”. The swallows soar and swoop gracefully, and in the campanella effects (the notes of scales played on different strings, so that their sounds overlap) one may imagine that they are flying near a church tower, one of their favourite habitats. The swan does not sing (only, it is said, just before it dies) but it does float serenely on the water, with dignified grace; this is portrayed in the opening and closing sections, the gently undulating bass line suggesting similar movement of the water. In the middle section the swan moves more animatedly, causing the water to do likewise. Over and above these things, the melody seeks to capture the beauty of line and the sadness we associate with the swan. Sparrows are gregarious, unpredictable in their movements, quarrelsome and self-assured (“cocky”); the final movement conveys all these characteristics.


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