Spira mirabilis’s residency at the 2011 Aldeburgh Festival was a revelation. I was enthralled by the intensity of their playing and by their total commitment to such a radical approach to performance and repertoire. Around a year later, I was asked to write a piece for them myself and had no hesitation accepting. There is no space here to describe the experience of working with them at their base in the small town of Formigine in northern Italy. Seemingly unlimited rehearsal time, much extended discussion, sometimes 20 minutes reworking a single bar: it was as if I was working with 40 chamber musicians all with a single aim.
The title of the piece, in spite of its obvious connections, was long in coming: by using the word ‘spiralling’ I wanted to describe how the music twists and turns, sometimes in bold statements which turn in on themselves (as at the opening) sometimes in rapid, scherzo-like figuration, sometimes in slow unfolding. The work plays without a break, but may be thought of as in three parts: an extended and developed introduction (from which all the subsequent material is derived) followed by a scherzo; a central section, mostly slow and melodic; and a final section which is part recapitulation and part development, mainly fast, but pulled back by a return to the opening before being let loose again.
Spiralling was commissioned by Aldeburgh Music for the 2014 Britten Weekend; it is, of course, dedicated to ‘my friends in Spira mirabilis’, who gave the first performance in October 2014 at the Snape Maltings.
View the score (published by Faber Music)