Three Roses

for orchestra

Richard Whalley

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for orchestra

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Composer Richard Whalley
Year of Composition 2013
Duration 3'-4'
ISMN 9790570682256
Forces 2fl, fl/picc, 2ob, ob/ca, 2cl, cl/bcl, 2bn, cbn, 4hn, 3tpt, 3tbn, timp, 2perc, strings (
Categories (all composers)
Catalogue ID ce-rw1tr1


In 2009, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a Cy Twombly exhibit in the Art Institute of Chicago, and was struck by a huge canvas by Twombly (entitled ‘The Rose II’). This image consists of three immense flowers, clearly created quickly with great energy, complete with dripping paint. It was impossible to ignore the physicality of the act of painting, and to me the suggestion of the fleetingness of creation. It is as if the drips are starting to erase the original image, making it a memory, yet creating new patterns that partially submerge the original. I was also very struck by the impact of the flowers themselves: not pretty in the conventional sense, but bold, powerful, almost vulgar in how vivid they were.

The musical analogies for me were too strong to ignore: I had to find a way to express this musically. The orchestra is perfectly suited to ‘painting in sound’, with big brush strokes, vibrant colours and the smearing effect of downward gravity transforming the image as it evolves. It is fascinating that objects appear so different when viewed from afar (drawing attention to the shape) and from close-up (where we experience the texture). The idea here is that the listener should feel sucked inside the flowers as the piece evolves, and as this happens overwhelmed by their powerful scent and vibrant colours.