Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

Sea Eagle

For horn solo

opus number: 103
completion date: 1982
duration: 9 minutes
movement titles: 1. Adagio
2. Lento
3. Presto molto
scoring: Solo horn
world premiere: 16 August 1982, Dartington Summer School, Devon
Richard Watkins
publisher: Chester Music
category: Instrumental work
difficulty level: 6 (most difficult)
programme note: Short Note by Paul Griffiths
A sketch of the majestic flight of a great and rare sea-bird in music which is mostly slow, though rising to scalic runs of great brilliance and flexibility.

Short Note 2 by Michael Wheeler ©

Over the years Davies has written a number of works for unaccompanied wind instruments, including The Kestrel Paced Round the Sun for flute, First Grace of Light for oboe, and The Seven Brightnesses for clarinet. Sea Eagle dates from 1982, and was written for Richard Watkins, then horn player with Davies's chamber ensemble, The Fires of London. He gave the first performance at Dartington Summer School in August that year.

It is a virtuoso piece full of the kind of bravura writing, particularly the rapid ascending runs, which is such a striking feature of Davies's orchestral scores. The first movement is the most varied in mood, starting gently but working up to a fortissimo climax marked by flutter-tonguing and spectacular upward swoops. The lento is a quiet, ruminative interlude before the scherzo-like third movement. Here Davies exploits the horn's capacity for nimbleness and rapid articulation, and explores the instrument's entire range, sending it down to its very lowest register before taking it up to the stopped high G, the highest note in the entire work, on which it ends.

This is a copyright note, and may not be reprinted or reproduced in any way without prior permission from the author.
additional information: Note about the Sea Eagle - July 2001

A unique birdwatching hide has been set up on the island of Mull in the Hebrides, where, for the first time, a pair of nesting sea eagles and their young can be observed at close quarters. The birds were reintroduced to Britain in the 1980s after being hunted to extinction last century. The sea eagle is the world's fourth largest eagle, the wingspan of which can reach more than 8 feet. Sea eagle chicks were imported from Norway and raised on the island of Rum nearly 20 years ago, in a conservation project to reintroduce the birds after they were shot, trapped and poisoned to extinction. The last pair was shot in Skye in 1916. The first wild-bred sea eagle chick of the new generation was reared in 1985 by a female called Blondie, which is thought to have produced at least 15 offspring. Not all the locals are fond of the birds, however. Farmers have claimed that, when the eagles are rearing chicks, they takes scores of newborn lambs. However, research suggests that the birds scavenge mostly dead or dying lambs, rather than take live prey. They also eat fish, rabbits, hares, deer, fulmars, shags and ducks.
recording: Michael Thompson
EMI Classics CDC 7 5440 2
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