Gwyneth Walker

The Turtle Dove

for Oboe and String Orchestra (2023)

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Download an MP3 file of a performance of this work Dan Frostman, oboe, Grace Festival String Orchestra, Alastair Stout, conductor.

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Premiered by the Choir of Grace Church, Rutland, Vermont with Dan Frostman, oboe and the Grace Festival String Orchestra - Stephanie Taylor, concertmaster; Alastair Stout, conductor - May 21, 2023, Rutland, Vermont

This beloved English folk ballad is a song of sorrow. The turtle dove longs for his mate:

Oh yonder sits the turtle dove, he sits in younger tree,
a-making moan for the loss of his love, as I will do for thee.

It is an expression of solitude and mourning. And thus, the musical language is sparse, often "lonely." The opening phrase in Violins, an ascending minor 6th followed by a falling minor 2nd, is described as a "lament motive." It may be heard as a tear, which serves as the main countermove to the melody, introduced in the Oboe.

At the end of each verse, the Cello rises in a pizzicato scale to merge with the Oboe. One might hear the turtle dove joining with his mate, if only briefly.

Several verses (sections) follow, always separated by falling steps (tears) passages. The closing section allows the dove (Oboe) to be truly alone, as a cadenza over held chords in the strings. And finally, the Oboe rises to a high B-flat, alone, estranged from the strings in the "home key" of D minor.

[This work was commissioned as a prelude to the Ralph Vaughan Williams choral setting of The Turtle Dove. The choral arrangement is in the key of B-flat minor, so the high B-flat ending note for Oboe serves as a bridge.]

Notes by the composer