Through the Sharp Hawthorn (Blows the Cold Wind)

for flute and piano


Through the Sharp Hawthorn (Blows the Cold Wind)

Composed: Durham, November-December 1987
Revised: Charterhouse, October 1989
i) Durham Music Society Concert:
flute: Caroline Stockman
piano: Clive Broadbent

ii) (Revised version)
SPNM Concert, Lauderdale House, Highgate, London
flute: Marian Erhardt
piano: Michael Dussek

Through the Sharp Hawthorn was written following a suggestion by Dr John Casken for a piece for the excellent flautist Caroline Stockman, then present in Durham.

The full title is a line from King Lear – Lear’s wits have just ‘been turned’ and he is talking on the heath to ‘Poor Tom’ , the ‘mad’ version of Edgar, who has been forced to flee from his father who believes him guilty of treachery. Rather than leaving the country, and therefore his misguided father to the actual treachery of his ‘bastard’ half-brother, Edmund, he chooses to dress in rags and act as a madman.

This title was considered appropriate for a number of reasons: the storm scene of the play during which the line occurs is one of the bleakest in all Shakespeare, and I consider this piece to be one of the most bleak in mood I have written; the scene represents a ‘turning point’ in the drama: this piece represents a turning point in my composing, (or at least it felt so at the time); the imagery was appropriate: the cold wind representing the flute, the sharp hawthorn, the piano; finally, the inverted nature of the line, (a more common, more modern version might be ‘the cold wind blows through the sharp hawthorn’), represents at least one of the compositional features of the work.