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Heartbeat for solo percussion and orchestra

Saturday 23 November 2019 St George's Bristol World premiere of new orchestral commission, Heartbeat, composed by William Goodchild Bristol Symphony Orchestra Harriet Riley | Percussion William Goodchild | Conductor An orchestral programme that explores all aspects of the heart - physical, emotional and metaphysical - and its relationship with music. The programme includes a world premiere of a specially commissioned new work, Heartbeat, composed by William Goodchild for percussionist Harriet Riley and Bristol Symphony, and culminates in a performance of Rachmaninov’s magnificent Second Symphony. Bristol Symphony Orchestra Harriet Riley

Programme note

Heartbeat for solo percussion and orchestra (2019)

by William Goodchild

Commissioned by Robert Tulloh, Professor in Congenital Cardiology at the Bristol Heart Institute and musician, this work is a musical reflection on and response to the life of the human heart: from its gradual emergence in the womb to the birth of a child; the heart’s strong presence throughout life; and finally, its physical demise. Beyond death of the individual, Life continues, strong, resilient, and full of hope. The work is in five movements:

I Moderato – Maestoso

The heart is the focus of life. From the first moments of an embryo’s existence in the mysterious other-worldliness of the mother’s womb, the faint beating is a sign of a life to be. The beating grows stronger as the weeks pass, securing a place in the family, and in the growing child.

II Vivo feroce e agitato

The pace quickens as the embryo grows. We experience a rhythmic counterpoint between the mother’s strong heart and the developing heart of the embryo, until the heart bursts into the outside world, pounding strongly but fast, three times faster than an adult heartbeat, a pace that will gradually slow throughout its entire life. Not all hearts are strong and healthy: some malfunction. Those with unusual structure or rhythm are not destined for adulthood, despite the care of the medical profession. Most, however, continue through illnesses, exercises and the stresses of life, to flourish and nurture the growing child.

III Romanza

Now the heart beats strongly and >irmly with the strength of adolescence and adulthood. It copes with every demand of activity it must support. Its rhythm is regular and the harmonics and complexity of adulthood are demonstrated within the cultures and travels associated with jobs and family life. Heart and Romance are strongly connected. This movement explores the lyricism of the heart: the power of love.

IV Allegro grazioso

As the heart ages, its rhythm may become irregular, missing beats, developing extra beats and showing signs of weakening. It continues to slow, reminiscent of times past, of childhood and young adulthood, hopeful of a long future but knowing that, as the pace slows and weakens, it is no longer the force it once was. Other medical issues may arise from high blood pressure, putting strain on the heart; furred up arteries to the heart risk sudden catastrophic events. WG: ‘I discovered an English folksong called Death and the Lady. The song describes Death visiting a beautiful young woman. She attempts to persuade Death to leave her, to come back later, but it is no use. Her time has come. What attracted me about this traditional song, which forms the basis for this movement, is its lightness and cheerfulness in the face of demise: a strange juxtaposition.’

V Moderato – Allegro ben ritmico

At the end, the heart is at peace, once again recalling former times, as thoughts >ly to an enduring future, a time without end, a chance to be beautiful and strong again. We revisit that other-world without pulse: a mysterious and timeless place… and then, joy, strength and vitality emerge. We are left with hope and a recognition of the resilience and strength of all life.


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