Bagatelles, Book 2
Op.133 nos.1-10

for solo piano
25 mins.

First performed by the composer on 3rd August 2011 at the Tout-petit Festival de Musique, St. Germain de Calberte, France

11. The simple joy in locomotion
12. Stroking your keys
13. Now or never
14. Passing wind
15. It tolls for thee
16. The meaning of life
17. Fibonacci’s song
18. Perpetual motion
19. Nocturne
20. Midnight tango

Programme notes

My second book of piano Bagatelles contains the next ten pieces in the series. I wrote them to play myself in a concert at the Tout-petit Festival de Musique at St. Germain de Calberte in southern France – where they had their premiere on August 3rd, 2011.

No. 11 (The simple joy in locomotion) tries to convey the joyful skipping of young children. The title is taken from a phrase in one of Barack Obama’s books, and refers to the innocent hope of the young, too often soured by lack of opportunity.

No 12 (Stroking your keys) is played caressingly, with the tips of the fingers, as if the piano were a cat or a lover.

No. 13 (Now or never) is about living in the moment, and is a rhythmic and very physical workout.

No. 14 (It tolls for thee) is the most important piece of the set, musically. Its title is taken from Meditation XVII of John Donne’s Devotions: “No man is an island, entire of itself . . . any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. The tolling of a funeral-bell is gradually set up, one stroke being added at a time, each represented by a different chord. Between the tollings of the bell are melodic fragments which depict the life which has ended.

No. 15 (Passing wind) is a very different story: it is a hymn of praise to the expressive, lyrical and comic potential of the fart – le pet sonore, as it is known in French.

No. 16 (The meaning of life) is a simple study of the heartbeat which divides life from death.

No. 17 (Fibonacci’s song) uses the first four steps (1:1:2:3) of the Fibonacci sequence as the formal structure for a songlike melody.

In No. 18 (Perpetual motion study) a rapidly repeated five-note (and five-finger) phrase, starting in the bass, moves gradually upwards and becomes the accompaniment for a melody in the right hand. It then passes to the right hand, and the roles are reversed. At the end the phrase shoots to the very top of the piano and vanishes.

No. 19 (Nocturne) is a nostalgic melody for just before midnight, and a homage to Chopin. At the end we hear a clock strike midnight, taking us into No. 15 (Midnight tango). This piece is a melancholy valediction: someone about to die hears midnight strike, and imagines (or dances) a tango which symbolises all his (or indeed her) long-lost loves, losses and regrets. “Tout casse, tout passe, tout lasse”.