© By Kevin O'Connell
North was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 in 1997, shortly after O’Connell had moved to Dublin from his native Northern Ireland.
The title is borrowed from Seamus Heaney’s volume North of 1975, likewise completed after the poet had moved to the Republic of Ireland.
O’Connell dismisses any programmatic intent. observing that North is a title, not a description.
The work is in two movements. The first is a broad Lento which states and varies several basic ideas and makes a feature of dense string counterpoint. The second is a Scherzo. beginning in deceptively Haydnesque fashion but becoming more combative.
Outwardly the two movements may appear very different, but they share much common material. The second may even be heard as a kind of variation of the first.
The idea of the broader European north is hinted at with a citation from Sibelius’s Fourth Symphony, heard right at the start. This and several other basic motifs are developed throughout.
North (1997 - 1998), 3222 4231 timp 2 perc str [MS 20’]
Premiered by the Ulster Orchestra, conducted by Robert Houlihan, at a BBC Invitation Concert in Belfast on 15 May 1998.’
Recording courtesy of the artist and RTE lyric fm ,
Composers of Ireland Series Volume 8
“North for orchestra is an abstract work that has no particular connection with any political or programmatic idea. More generally, I wanted to reflect on northernness as a geographical and cultural concept.
The opening three notes of the work, for example, quote the opening notes of Sibelius’s Fourth Symphony. This sense of the north as a cultural and imaginative (rather than particular and political) terrain has persisted in my more recent work.”