for viola and piano
Composition Date: 1992
Commissioned by Wigmore Hall, and first performed by Tabea Zimmermann and Christian Ivaldi in November 1995.
Sule Skerrie is the name of a wild and remote rock off the coast of Hoy, in the Orkney Islands.
According to one ancient ballad, it is the home of a `selchie' - a grey seal which has the ability to shed its skin and become a man. Tales of these legendary creatures abound, perhaps due to the uncanny similarity between the cries of grey seals and human weeping and singing. They are often love stories, in which a selchie marries a human, only to return inevitably to the sea, sometimes taking its children as well. But the selchie is also a source of comfort, an alternative explanation when a fisherman is lost at sea; the widow can believe that her husband is not drowned, but has been taken by the selchies to live contentedly under the sea, to return some day.
This piece is inspired by the unpredictability of the sea, by wave shapes, swell and spray, imperceptible gathering of storms; and by the eerie keening of grey seals heard at night on the beach in Hoy.
Sule Skerrie was commissioned by Wigmore Hall, and first performed by Tabea Zimmermann and Christian Ivaldi in November 1995.