A lyrical piece for alto sax and piano borrowing freely from pop, jazz and rock styles
- 3 minutes, 45 seconds
This piece was written in 1987 and given its first performance in February that year by Julia Hearnshaw with the composer accompanying, at St Christopher School, Letchworth in Hertfordshire.
Its title derives from its prominent use of sustained, smooth-flowing melodic lines; indeed the melody was recycled from an arietta from the opera, Yellow Earth Ridge (1976), which has since been withdrawn by the composer.
Cantilena tries to capture a popular flavour, borrowing freely from pop, jazz and rock styles: primary and secondary chords are used in arpeggiated piano figures, as mainstream ballads might do; pedal notes are a feature, especially on the tonic note; and a 'bluesy' style emerges in the third main theme.
A pseudo-rock style is twice used on the climax section, which acts as a song-like chorus.
Cantilena is in the key of D flat major overall, but even the introduction uses 'wrong-note' harmony (notably flattened sevenths) to produce ambiguous tonality. The piece demonstrates a range of tone colour for the saxophone across a wide melodic range.