Minterne (2007)

For Soprano, Violin and Cello   20 minutes

Twenty years ago, a friend gave me a copy of Vikram Seth’s verse novel Golden Gate and I immediately became a fan. I explored his poetry, and was musically very attracted by the deceptively simple eloquence and rhythmic clarity of his verse. I went on to set thirteen poems from his collection All You Who Sleep Tonight as a song-cycle.

Veronica Stewart was unaware of this when she invited me to collaborate with Vikram on a song-cycle in honour of The Lady Digby and the Summer Music Society of Dorset. Some years ago, Veronica introduced me to Dione Digby, who co-commissioned my string quartet Out of Time with Elizabeth Allsebrooke in 2001 – when I had the pleasure of staying overnight at Minterne and being taken on a tour of the gardens.

Veronica and Vikram suggested bringing together Patricia Rozario, Philippe Honoré and Steven Isserlis. I have admired Patricia Rozario’s ravishing voice since I first heard her (in my twenties, playing the piano for rehearsals of La Finta Semplice)and recently, quite independently, she and I had discussed the idea of my writing something for her. I was eager to write for Steven and Philippe; so it felt as if this friendly collaboration between commissioner, writer, composer, singer and instrumentalists had a kind of inevitability.

In our first conversation, Vikram and I aGreed not to write about Minterne at all. The combination of soprano, violin and cello suggested simply a woman in a garden. But, somehow, the strong personalities of Dione and Minterne gardens have prevailed and permeated all these songs.

Text: original poems by Vikram Seth

Commissioned by Veronica Stewart on behalf of the Summer Music Society of Dorset for the Lady Digby to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Summer Music Society of Dorset

First performance: 30th August 2007, Patricia Rozario (soprano), Philippe Honoré (violin) and Steven Isserlis (cello), Minterne.