picc(=fl).2(=picc).3.2.bass clar.2.contrabsn / 18.104.22.168 / timps / 4 perc / harp / strings
Commissioned by the Australian Youth Orchestra
First performance by the Australian Youth Orchestra conducted by Matthew Coorey, Town Hall, Melbourne, 15 December 2022
Constructed as a series of intensifying soundscapes, the work rises to a climax at which point Ford quotes at length Handel’s famous ‘Largo’, albeit in a transfigured, if not haunted, garb. The link between Handel and Ford’s underlying theme, of course, is that the Largo was originally an aria from Handel’s opera Xerxes (1738), which is sung by the eponymous Persian King to a plane tree . . . Ford’s evocation is . . . more symbolic than literal, a reminder (should we need one) of what is now at stake, not just for the natural environment but for ourselves.
The piece is anchored in a core of complex percussion and timpani parts which were expertly delivered by section leaders and rank-and-file players alike. This kernel of sound was supported by the rest of the orchestra using both extended instrumental techniques and traditional scoring. At its conclusion, the orchestra was literally given voice; all musicians on stage were asked to sing (and sing they did very well), giving the work a suitably spectral apotheosis.
Peter Tregear, Australian Book Review