Ian Gammie : Three Ravens ; A Reflection for Guitar Solo on a Jacobean Ballad
Corda Music Publications: 8 pages
In the Preface Ian Gammie states that the various parts of this Reflection are in no way portraying individual verses but rather the whole piece is a comment on the whole Jacobean ballad, originally published in 1611.
The mood of the piece is solemn and dark at the opening with block chords, played molto legato and yet are strange when placed immediately next to one another, as the first chord has G#s and C Naturals the second has G and B naturals , and the next an octave up has Bbs and G naturals. And so this situation continues, wherein the harmonies in the chords sound, of themselves, fine, but when placed next to one another sound eerie, and deliberately put you on your edge. Little portions of the original melody start entering, sometimes in the bass, below chords, and sometimes in the treble, but again the first section is there to make the listener uneasy. Then at a malinconico a melody in imitation begins to take the music forward a little as the mood lightens just a bit, which in turn changes the tempo into an Allegretto and a key change for a brief section involving a number of Scottish snap rhythms in the melody and then straight into a Vivace with some rapid quaver and semi – quaver runs followed by phrases involving accented chords.
One thing that you realise is how many times the speeds change, a character I have found in others of Gammie’s works. So no sooner is the Vivace established that a Meno Vivace on a mainly two voiced melody leads to a poco rall, and then to a quasi-Marcia in triple time, and further on to an Andantino in 4/4.
Constantly the little fragments of melody from the ballad are around or about, and keep reminding the player that almost none of this piece is meant to feel light – hearted. After a number of different sections , a complex arpeggio idea takes over and this Allegro then leads finally to the coda that consists of a Sonoro Lento , mainly chordal variation , marked quasi chorale, and then the piece closes on a final , and suitably dark cadence.
This is yet another deeply thoughtful and intelligent piece of writing that is definitely not for any player less than intermediate, and portions of it are quite advanced, as you have to be able to adapt quickly from one musical situation to another with little or no preparation. As such this is an engrossing work, full of emotion, and littered with sounds that are quite unique to this composer, as with many of his works. Definitely worth playing!