Mosaici di Ravenna
published by: Composer
Winner of the first Gerald Finzi Trust Memorial Award, 1981. Its movements are respectively [i] Tableau and [ii] Toccata. The work is constructed in such a way that separate performance of its individual movements is unfeasible.
This work was recorded for CD by Jeremy Filsell for Gamut Classics [GAM CD 524] in 1991 (this recording is no longer available commercially):
A new performance by Christian Wilson was released by ACIS [APL 67065] in November 2017:
Mosaici di Ravenna
This work was written for the first Gerald Finzi Trust Memorial Award, adjudicated by a panel chaired by Kenneth Leighton. Having been my first competitive success, Mosaici survives as my earliest acknowledged composition.
The Finzi Award required an organ work based on a theme from the works of Finzi as published by Boosey and Hawkes. This in itself presented a challenge, since much of Finzi’s melodic material embraces conjunct motion in major keys, deriving its individuality from the underlying harmony. Eventually I discerned possibilities in a transitional verse from the last of Finzi’s five Shakespeare Songs, Let us Garlands Bring. This offered an octave leap, a pair of descending fourths, a fleeting semiquaver motif amenable to ostinato repetition, and a further pair of fourths piled on top of another to extend to a minor seventh. Tinkering with harmonic and tonal background led me to see the opening octave as a modally flattened seventh, which is how it makes its first appearance (such things are much better understood when heard than when laboriously described in words).
Mosaici di Ravenna has nothing else to do with Finzi, but a certain amount to do with my abiding enthusiasm for the harmonic language of Carl Nielsen and plenty to do with the impact made on me by the mosaics of two churches in or near the northern Italian city of Ravenna: The fairly central Basilica of San Vitale and the Church of Sant’Apollinare in the outlying village of Classe. The memorably cool austerity of the latter led to the opening Tableau, in which measured processional momentum is implied by rhythmic means and a more abstract sense of stillness by lengthy initial adherence to the pedal note C. Gradually the true axis reveals itself as one of conflict between modally-inflected C and the scale of B Minor. This opposition is worked out further during the Toccata, which responds to the visual exuberance and wider palette of the San Vitale mosaics. Resuming after a briefly subdued central interlude, the Toccata’s battle of wills comes down ultimately on the side of C, where the music began. A thunderous final open fifth seeks to encapsulate both triumph and austerity.
Those minded to believe that things happen for a reason may be interested that, lying briefly on the floor of Sant’Apollinare’s nave, the better to appreciate the visual miracles overhead without a stiff neck, I was disconcertingly run over by an arriving funeral cortège, which succeeded in passing over and around me without remarking my supine presence. An ostensibly descending octagonal shadow at this, the outset of my compositional career in earnest, may have been trying to tell me something. If so, the present release confirms that I have improvidently ignored it.
Francis Pott, 2016
A substantial, exciting work by a plainly good composer
Kenneth Leighton, Chairman of panel of adjudicators (including Gillian Weir and Alan Ridout), awarding the work First Prize in the Gerald Finzi Memorial Award, 1981
Mosaici di Ravenna intelligently accommodates [aspects of] the harmonic language of Carl Nielsen while paying atmospheric tribute to two churches in northern Italy. Toccata finds Pott in idiosyncratic but absorbing mood.
Michael Quinn, Choir & Organ, May-June 2018.
Francis Pott’s Mosaici di Ravenna …won the 1981 Gerald Finzi Memorial Award. The required incorporation of a theme by Finzi is insignificant, and the work gains its title and content from the lavish mosaics to be found in St Apollinare, Classe, just outside Ravenna. The first movement is broad and portrays the effect of entering the church, and the Allegro Toccata that follows is a direct response to the actual mosaics. A brief climax makes way for a gentler middle section but unrest soon returns, and the work ends with superb excitement.
The Organ, Volume 78, November 1999 – January 2000.