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The Banks of Green Willow, like Butterworth’s friend Vaughan Williams’s Greensleeves Fantasia, is one of the loveliest works to emerge from the late nineteenth- and early twentieth century academic interest in English folk song. Butterworth was killed in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme, and this sad fact, and the very fact of the Great War itself, has inevitably coloured our reading of his few remaining scores. Yet the music is in itself wistful, haunting, shot through with nostalgia for a pastoral myth, the loss of some illusory innocence, perhaps: one thinks of Butterworth’s favourite, Housman, and also of Hardy. Its very subtitle, Idyll, had, since ancient Greece, signified a pastoral sketch or poem. The present arrangement for 4 flutes plus alto and bass flutes is as economical as I could make it while retaining fidelity to the original score. In an attempt to evoke some of the timbres of the original, I have marked a few passages to be played by one instrument alone. The demisemiquaver attempt to mimic the harp glissandi is marked optional, to help render the piece easier; while a few bars of double-tongued semiquavers for the inner parts are marked with a simpler alternative. All tempi, phrasing indications, crescendi, etc, are as in the original published score. This is a wonderful piece for flutes, a great audience favourite, and particularly suitable for performance during the World War I centenary anniversaries. The original was first performed in February 1914.
Reviews of BUTTERWORTH, George: The Banks of Green Willow, arr. for Flute Choir (4fl, afl, bfl)
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