for piano trio

Richard Birchall

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for piano trio

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Composer Richard Birchall
Year of Composition 2014
Duration ca.8'
Categories (all composers) , ,
Catalogue ID ce-rb3c1


Contours is an abstract concert-piece for piano trio in four short movements, each of which explores the notion of ‘contour’ in a different way.

The movements are in two pairs. The first, opening with a smooth and sinuous set of string lines (initially independent from the swells of the piano), draws contour curves through melody, deriving almost the whole music from two distinct musical ideas. This leads directly into a faster movement in compound time, in which the contours are razor-sharp, focusing on the vertical alignment of the instrumental parts in an almost mechanical way. This inherently clinical movement is enlivened by an element of bravura, and the occasional hint of dark humour.

The second pair of movements carry descriptive titles: the Nocturne functions as an introductory scene-setter for the dance that will follow: the contours are hazy, as if silhouetted; the atmosphere shifts between bleak and warm without settling. The Fast Waltz itself is a shameless parody. The harmonic language is close enough to tradition for the essence to endure, but liberally spoilt to ensure that any elegance seems somewhat grotesque; any comfortable rhythm is routinely wrong-footed by a spattering of ‘wrong’ time signatures. The contours delineated on this finale’s dance-floor belong (in the composer’s mind, at least) to a fantasy world of peculiar and grotesque dancing beasts.