Simon Pinnington

for solo clarinet

duration: 8 minutes

"…I was held fast, not in fetters clamped upon me by another, but by my own will, which had the strength of iron chains. …the new will which has come to life in me and made me which to serve you freely and enjoy you, my God, who are our only certain joy, was not yet strong enough to overcome the old, hardened as it was by the passage of time. So these two wills within me, one old, one new, one the servant of the flesh, the other of the spirit, were in conflict and between them they tore my soul apart.
From my own experience I now understood … that the impulses of nature and the impulses of the spirit are at war with one another."

These words of Saint Augustine, from his Confessions (Book VIII), talk of the human will, or wills, that inhabit each person’s mind, battling for supremacy in our every decision. Being creatures blessed with a free will (or, in the words of Thomas Aquinas, a 'capacity to desire'), the battle, which never ends, is not easily surmountable; hence our need for an all-forgiving, never-changing God. As the title implies, lent takes as its inspiration the season of Lent, the most penitential time of the Christian year, when this battle of the will(s) is made the focus of attention. It lasts for 40 days, recalling Christ's time in the desert, where he was tempted by Satan. Christ did not succumb to the temptations put before him, and it is to this spirit of discipline and self-restraint that we aspire.

The piece explores this primarily through four Lenten themes: Temptation, Conflict, Suffering and Transfiguration. The connection is also shown in the work's structure, consisting of 40 bars, each exactly the same length and duration. These themes, are explored dramatically, the performer being gradually 'tempted' to accede to more and more corruptions of the work’s underlying metre and pulse. Eventually lost in virtually meaningless material, the player is forced to retrace their steps, and to try to reclaim something of what was aspired to at the outset. As this is tentatively achieved, towards the end of the piece, six final 'homages' are played, dedicated to a variety of saints whose commemorations frequently fall within Lent (and also to a variety of 'saints' who have personally helped me in my spiritual life), and for whom this victory was shared.

completed: 15 November 1998, Den Haag
first performance: 24 February 1999, The Guesten Hall, Bromsgrove Mixing Music Series: Fiona Duncan

Simon Pinnington was born in 1973 in Cheltenham. Following two years of study at Coventry Centre for the Performing Arts, he joined the degree course at Birmingham Conservatoire, studying composition with Richard Leigh Harris, organ with David Bruce-Payne and conducting with Andrew Mogrelia. He was appointed co-director of the contemporary music group, Thallein Ensemble, in May 1996; with them he directed performances including works by Richard Barrett, George Benjamin, Harrison Birtwistle, Robin Holloway and György Ligeti. He graduated with honours in June 1997, also receiving the BMI Creative Studies prize. Following a scholarship from The Countess of Munster Musical Trust, Simon studied for two years at the Sonology Institute of the Royal Conservatorium in The Hague, where he obtained his Masters degree.

Simon is Assistant Director of Music at Christ Church, Cheltenham. He continues to study composition privately with Richard Barrett. Recent compositions include CRUX for trumpet solo & ensemble of 4 players, and Orbus. (Fragment) for string quartet, broadcast on Radio 3.

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