Inner Landscapes

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Length / year

10' - 1994


solo piano


" . . . and the new harmonic discursiveness of the solo piano work Inner Landscapes makes a strong impression here in Richard McMahon's powerful, well-sustained performance"
Martyn Harry - Gramophone Magazine

Performance history

First Broadcast
Criccieth Festival concert recorded and broadcast on BBC Radio 3

First Performance
Criccieth Festival
June 1994
Bernard Roberts

Mexican Premiere
Escuela Nacional de Musica (UNAM), Mexico City
15th April 2002
Zoe Smith - piano

Programme note

When I left Wales to live in Canada in 1986 a friend gave me Paul Wakefield's and Jan Morris' book 'Wales : The First Place'. In words and photographs the contributors evoke in an often magical way the landscape and natural history of Wales, its culture and its people. From time to time when I was away I would leaf through the book and marvel at its contents, reminding myself at the same time that distance lends enchantment. Upon my return to the UK I was surprised at the extent to which our landscape does indeed for me measure up to its imagining. We live in a place which has been touched by magic.

This was the starting point for 'Inner Landscapes'. It is a series of short fragments performed without a break. Each fragment was originally intended to carry a title containing a place name, time of day and an action - for example, 'Mynydd Eppynt : Dawn : Running'. Though strong pictorial images remain with me about certain sections of the piece, the musical structure quite soon suggested its own forms which, in their turn, militated against an over-literal descriptive approach.

That musical structure can be quite clearly heard. I have used an ascending and descending scale containing all twelve chromatic notes built notionally around G and C sharp. All ascending phrases use the ascending form and vice versa. On these are superimposed quasi 'tonal' centres - sometimes C and E flat. More importantly the fragments alternate the use of the scales in a totally pan-diatonic manner - each fragment being entirely built on one of the forms of the scale. There is no chromatic music in the piece therefore.

This use of the scales returns us to the original imaginative conception of the piece. There are clear 'climbing' sections, also 'soaring' and 'flying', the latter suggested to me by the helicopter sequences in Emyr Afan's film of my 'Llyfr Lloffion y Delyn' for S4C. But, while listening to the musical structure, I invite you to evoke your own. Towards the end of the work is a powerful section which for me suggests a sudden arrival on a scene of breathtaking beauty. From this point onwards the piece moves towards stillness and ends with a quietness and serenity which are the hallmark of its brief span.