David Horne's Reflecting Instruments was the 2020 McEwen commision and was premiered by the Nanhai Piano Trio in the University Concert Hall on Thursday March 5th 2020. The piece is Horne's first for Piano Trio and explores the timbral and harmonic interaction of the instruments in the trio.

The premiere paired Reflecting Instruments with Beethoven’s Piano Trio - Op. 1, No.1 in E♭ Major.

Decorative design element

Listen to… the Reflecting Instruments premiere

Programme note
David Horne - Reflecting Instruments

While I have a large number of chamber works including four string quartets, a piano quartet and two piano quintets, this is the first work I have composed for Piano Trio. It is fair to say that the wonderful Piano Trio by Maurice Ravel has always been inspirational to me, including as a pianist when I performed the work many times. While there are no direct allusions to that great work, I was motivated to explore a wide range of colour and textures in my own piece, with the trio frequently coalescing and separating texturally. As the title suggests, there is a great deal of interplay between the timbres of the various instruments and how they interplay, indeed reflect each other. From the outset the piano seems to echo and even resonate the sounds of the strings, though as the work progresses this relationship often reverses, with the strings emulating the harmonics of the piano, its pedalling and resonance. There is another aspect of the music’s language which will not be apparent to the listener but is worth noting. In much of my work I am fascinated by the nature of instruments and how their own idioms often inspire and lead musical ideas. This is beyond the notion of just writing idiomatically per se, but instead allowing the affordances of the medium being composed for to suggest content, including harmony and melody. One of my recent works is a chamber concerto for cimbalom and ensemble. This is an instrument that is impossible to write for unless you have a very good understanding of the layout of its strings, which is idiosyncratic to say the least. This can however yield fascinating harmonic results, and I wished to transpose the ‘template’ of the cimbalom’s layout onto the musical gestures of the current ensemble, while still retaining as natural an approach as possible to the ideas played by the trio. The result I intend, therefore, is a piece of music which works naturally for the piano trio but manages to nevertheless evoke something outside itself.

David Horne 2020

Performer biographies & full details of the Reflecting Instruments premiere can be found in the McEwen concert programme 2020