Raymond Yiu

for solo string quartet and orchestra

2 fl, 2 ob, 2 cl, 2 bn, 2 hn, 2 trp, timp, strings (

duration: 5 minutes


As when, upon a tranced summer-night,
Those green-robed senators of mighty woods,
Tall oaks, branch-charmed by the earnest stars,
Dream, and so dream all night without a stir.

‘Hyperion: A Fragment’ (1820) – John Keats (1795-1821)

The origin of Tranced came from a repeated dream that I had around the time when I was composing my string quartet Tranced Summer-Night. In this dream, an enormous sculpture was displayed in a very large dark exhibition hall, where occasionally beams of light shining on this sculpture and I have glimpses of this artifact. I never managed to work out what the sculpture was, but the experience of ‘fragmentary observation’ interests me – and therefore I set myself to write an orchestral study based on this image. Meanwhile, this idea also fit into the framework of the string quartet – and it eventually became the second movement of the string quartet.

A lute song by John Dowland was chosen as the ‘blue print’ of this piece because of its compatibility with the material of the string quartet. The original song is constantly suspended or compressed harmonically. As I imagine the music should be perceived as coming from everywhere, in an ideal performance, all the musicians should scatter around the entire performance space. With woodwinds and brass players, preferably mobile, at a higher level, while the conductor, strings and timpani situated at the same level as the audience in a circular fashion (the conductor as the centre, solo string quartet as an inner circle and all the other strings and timpani to form an outer circle).

For practical reason, all players are positioned on stage forming three layers of semi-circles with the wind and brass as the outermost layer on an elevated platform, the solo string quartet closest to the conductor, the timpani and other strings form a middle layer.

Raymond Yiu (b.1973) is a composer and jazz pianist. Born in Hong Kong, 1973, and now currently living in London. He started piano lessons at the age of four and began writing music as a teenager. He came to England in 1990 and took up composing again while he was studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering in Imperial College, from where he graduated in 1996.

As a composer, Raymond is mainly self-taught. While working as an analyst programmer, he has studied composition privately with Graham Williams. He has also received informal consultations from several composers including Lukas Foss, David Matthews and David Sawer. He is currently undertaking a research on the music of Lukas Foss.

Raymond's Prelude for Five was performed by Britten Sinfonia Soloists in 1999. Distance of the Moon for eleven solo strings was selected and conducted by Lukas Foss at Bridge Hampton Music Festival, New York in the summer of 2001.

Works in progress include a trio for flute, clarinet and piano based on Michael Cunningham's novel 'The Hours', a set of three pieces for chamber orchestra, and a solo piano piece. Future plans include a piano concerto based on the life of the jazz composer/arranger Bill Strayhorn and a wind quintet.

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