Toccata – Nocturne – Scherzo – Berceuse – Sarabande
The five movements that make up this Suite were composed between 1976 and 1979. All of them may be played as separate pieces, but they were originally intended to form a group, and there are thematic links between them.
The Toccata is a percussive movement, obsessed with the note E flat, which occurs in all registers and whose repetitions gradually accelerate. The quiet mood of the Nocturne is in complete contrast: it avoids E flat until its very last note, and revolves around three notes – C, B flat and B natural – which had not appeared at all in the Toccata. The Scherzo is aggressive and volatile, with a placed ‘trio’ section.
The other two movements are both slow; but whereas the Berceuse (dedicated to my son Dan, who managed to sleep throughout the first performance in 1978) is very hushed, with a muted climax, the Sarabande (dedicated to Oliver Knussen) gradually increases in intensity until, after its climax, it quickly subsides.