My starting point for this piece was the fanciful thought of Beethoven returning to his Eighth Symphony 200 years later and realising that he had forgotten to write a slow movement. I began by working with elements of the symphony, as well as of the roughly contemporary piano sonatas Op. 81a and 101, and composing some Beethoven pastiche of my own. This material was largely submerged in the process of composition, and I found to my surprise that another composer was coming to the surface : the first draft was in fact completed on the 100th anniversary of Mahler’s death.
I am very grateful to Riccardo Chailly for proposing the challenge of writing this work, which has pushed me into unexpected stylistic directions. Being restricted to Beethoven’s orchestra was a further discipline : contemporary composers are not used to having to do without percussion (which, although allowed by the terms of the commission, I decided not to use) or harp. Why a barcarolle? Largely because Beethoven never wrote one, so there would be no invidious comparisons : though had he done so it would surely have been a Grosse Barcarolle. The duration is approximately 14 minutes.
It was first performed in Germany in October 2011 by the Gewandhaus Orchestra under Riccardo Chailly.
View the score (published by Faber Music)