for solo guitar and small orchestra (flute, piccolo, oboe, cor anglais, clarinet (A), bass clarinet, bassoon, contrabassoon; 2 horns, 2 trumpets; strings)
22 mins.

Commissioned by Tom Kerstens for the Bath International Guitar Festival and first performed by him in Bath on 20th July 2002 with the City of London Sinfonia conducted by Nicolae Moldaveanu.

Programme notes

Mancanza was commissioned by Tom Kerstens and first performed by him with the City of London Sinfonia conducted by Nicolae Moldaveanu at the Bath International Guitar Festival on 20th July 2001. Scored for an orchestra of double woodwind, two horns, two trumpets and strings, it is in a single movement subdivided into an introduction and three sections.

The title has several meanings – absence, loss, failure, death itself, and the yearning for a much-loved person. It is taken from an anonymous Italian poem which describes the longing for a distant and unattainable beloved:

Come al pesce l’acqua,
Come all’uccello l’aria,
Così mi manchi tu…

As a fish misses water
As a bird misses air,
So I miss you…

The introduction is brooding – a nostalgic solo guitar line tied down by a gloomily pulsing bass-note. The first of the three sections is quick, alternating memories of an old love with violent spasms of protest at its passing. The second, slow section confronts loneliness and loss, but is unexpectedly revived by the reappearance of an old flame. This is marked by a quiet passage for the guitar solo, and relates to the closing lines of Eugenio Montale’s poem Prima del viaggio (Before the journey):

Un imprevisto è la sola speranza.
Ma mi dicono
ch’è una stoltezza dirselo.

The unexpected is the only hope.
But they tell me
It’s stupid to tell oneself that.

There can be no happy ending, because passion is snatched away by death; but the final, valedictory section finds contentment in a passionate memory.

2008 Giles Swayne