Prayer For Peace
for chamber ensemble and soloists


- Instrumentation: -

2 violins
double bass
soprano/mezzo-soprano/tenor/bass soloists

- Duration: -

Approximately 12 minutes.

- Recordings & Soundclips: -

There is a good quality live recording of this work (enquire via Daniel X Music).

- Score: -

Available from composer - please enquire.

- Premieres/Performances: -

‘Prayer For Peace’ was premiered by The Burstein Ensemble at St James Garlickhythe, City of London, 1994.

- Composer’s comments: -

Together with ‘Heaven’s Embroidered Cloth’ (the chamber version of the ‘Marchioness Requiem’) and ‘Songs of Love and Remembrance’, this work forms part of a trio of works written for the same forces - an ensemble of eight players (consisting of strings, woodwind and harp with four vocal soloists, these being soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor and bass). All these works were written in the early 1990s and the ensemble reflects the form of the Grosvenor Group (the ensemble which I founded in the 1980s) during its final phase when, on just two or three occasions (as I began to get into my stride as a composer and before I went over into composing full time) it became the Keith Burstein Ensemble.

The line up, although limited, proved an extraordinarily rich sound palette. Indeed, so much so that I was able to use concepts originally orchestral in scale (such as the ‘Marchioness Requiem’) without any sense of the forces being limited. It was at this time that I learnt how to make smaller resources reverberate with the sonority of much larger combinations - a magnifying process that later enabled me to orchestrate my first symphony (‘Elixir’) to resonate as though performed by a much larger ensemble than the Sinfonia line up of just over thirty players that has so far performed the three movements of that work.

Quite how this happens I am not sure. However, it is almost certainly connected by writing within the harmonic series, as it were, as the evident basis of all music: and by then elaborating and evoking the expressive dissonances and consonances which comprise the expressive poetry of organized sound. This is the Super Tonal spectrum - embracing all possible music while accepting the finite sound structures in nature of the harmonic series and comprehending that they give rise to infinite expressive potential. Music that once again vibrates with the structure of sound in nature will set up the deepest and widest resonances.

On a more anecdotal level, it may also be connected with the fact that I will almost certainly have found myself - as a foetus - sitting in the middle of a string section while my mother, a violinist, continued to attend orchestral rehearsals when pregnant. Imagine the pleasure of an embryo knowing it was on its way into a world of such divine beauty - I will never have a concert seat like that again! But perhaps the three-dimensional ravishment has stayed in my memory and imagination, and given me a means to re-evoke a shadow of that splendour when I orchestrate.

The greater scale of a full orchestra was also the original medium for the music of ‘Prayer For Peace’, at least in its opening. These bars were first sketched out as the beginning of a proto-symphonic movement, rather than for a chamber work: and indeed have recently been promoted (some fourteen years later) to that larger role again as the opening of a planned second symphony, still in early development.

As it was, in 1993 I adapted this proto-symphonic opening to a particular double purpose, both of which were connected with St James Garlickhythe, a City of London church designed by Sir Christopher Wren and situated just by his masterpiece, St Paul’s Cathedral. Firstly, as St James Garlickhythe was close to the sight of the Marchioness disaster (for which I had written Requiem music), a special table was to be dedicated in memory of the victims. At around the same time, (and just before the concert took place) the church’s renovation had recently been completed after a crane had fallen through its roof.

Quite why I came up with a ‘Prayer For Peace’ I do not recall - but given events of more recent years, the universalism of the message now enables me to re-designate this music as a contender for the symphonic-choral treatment of my first intentions.

- Keith Burstein, 16th November 2009



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