Pentecost music

for 4 flutes (3 rd doubling Piccolo, 4th doubling Alto ??), 3 oboes (3 rd doubling Cor anglais), 4 clarinets (??doubling E flat, ?? bass clarinet), 2 saxophones (sop & alto ??), 2 bassoons, contrabassoon; 6 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba; 5 percussion; harp, piano (doubling celesta); strings. (38')
38 mins.

First performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Cleobury, in a studio concert at New Broadcasting House, Manchester on 3rd April 1981. On August 5th 1990, the National Youth Orchestra, conducted by Mathias Bamert, performed the work at the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall. On May 4th 2007 it was performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Jac van Steen, at St. David’s Hall, Cardiff; this performance was broadcast on Radio 3 on May 5th 2008.

Programme notes

Pentecost Music, my second orchestral piece, was begun in 1976 and finished in 1978. It uses an orchestra of more than a hundred musicians, and lasts about thirty-eight minutes. The music is continuous, but there are nine recognisable subdivisions, which are named as follows:-

Tongues of fire I
The arch
Dawn chorus
Pentecost-dance I
At the still point …
Pentecost-dance II
Tongues of fire II
Fulfilment and rest

I shall not weary the listener with a description of my aims and aspirations in Pentecost Music, or a blow-by-blow account of how it was constructed: such things are as tedious to write as they are to read. But it is perhaps worth saying that the piece is a sort of musical journey, a search for fulfilment and stability which takes the form of a long, unbroken arch of sound. The point of repose is arrived at only when the arch is completed, and the end becomes a new beginning:-

Only through time time is conquered
T.S. Eliot (The four quartets)

Giles Swayne 1981


“a 40-minute work deploying large orchestral forces with vision and virtuosity… Pentecost Music deserves to be heard more widely.”

Meirion Bowen – The Guardian

“Giles Swayne’s Pentecost Music came over loud and clear – a long, powerful, scrunchy score, accessible but always arresting and with affecting solos for violin and cello.”

Christopher Grier – The Evening Standard