Etruscan Games
This piano trio was commissioned by Gerry Mattock and Beryl Calver-Jones in 2007 for the Da Vinci Trio.

Four pieces make up the work: three short movements feature, in turn, leading roles for violin, piano and cello, while a single larger movement sees all of these ideas and solos revisited in an extended version. This design, a sort of ‘games’ in the ancient sense of a competitive celebration of athletic prowess, was the gift of the work’s commissioners and dedicatees, and was one that I found creative and fertile. In fact the stowing-away of material from elsewhere in a work is a recurring aspect of my musical forms: in my first string quartet, The Still Dancers, there is at the centre of second of the three pieces a miniature version of itself and of the others - a model of the work within the work. So each of the instruments in Etruscan Games has, in its ‘solo’ piece, a territory of ideas that is expressively contrasted with the other two; in the longer movement, meanwhile, this ‘family’ is brought together into a turbulent confluence.

Unusually for me, therefore, the work’s shape has no extra-musical association. The lost Etruscan language, one of Europe’s ancient and now tantalisingly inscrutable tongues, came to mind during discussions with the commissioners about how new music speaks, or does not, to listeners (and performers) less familiar with its sound-world and syntax. I was aware of the musical content of my trio moving markedly away from the ‘known’ sound world of my recent chamber music, and hence was especially concerned with the perennial question of communication between composer and listener.

c Piers Hellawell 2007