‘The Golden Years’ – the first movement of Clifford Whites ‘Nature’s Symphony’ – begins with an intimate solo piano motif which soon blooms into a romantic waltz-like movement with a distinctly English flavour, reminiscent of bygone eras of stately homes, historic mansions and Victorian garden tea parties. The spritely tempo of this flashback through English nostalgia quickly evolves into that of a journey, disembarkation (perhaps to the waving and cheering of crowds) and the beginning of a voyage, by land, sea or air, to a wonderful and optimistic transatlantic destination. Twilight and then night move in, and the journey continues. In some ways, this piece could be the soundtrack to an imagined Jules Verne type of ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ tale, at least in its spirit of optimism and adventure. In places the music suggests courage and boldness, in others there are exalted and wistful passages intertwined. There is definitely a story being told here, the details of which are left to the listeners imagination. Suffice to say that the adventure is full of smiling faces. Midway through the movement, the tone darkens, as if twilight has settled upon our travellers, and a lone flute and piano sing out across the night as our journey continues. The wistful mood remains, with passages reminiscent of those nostalgic English themes from the start, as if our travellers find themselves longing ‘for the green green grass of home’, but this ennui is short lived, and we are soon off again on our optimistic joyride, with much to see and do on our travels. On a musical level, Clifford’s melodies, harmonies and rhythms continually evolve and lift, through musical key after key, as if each of our traveller’s visions of beauty and happiness excel the last. This is supremely positive music, suffused with joy, elation and freedom. Finally it would seem, our destination is reached, and the first movement of the album draws to an exalted close.
A gentle clap of thunder and the sound of rain opens the second movement ‘Worlds in Motion’ which, whilst bearing a similar tempo to the first movement, in style is distinctly more South American, where frenetic flute harmonies, rapidly cascading musical keys and hurried bass suggest the journey of a group of climbers, perhaps scaling the great mountains of the Andes, where they witness show capped wonders and the rarefied atmosphere of a world untouched by human hands. As with movement one, this is optimistic and joyous music, suffused with the wonder of travel and of the natural world. Halfway through, the old English themes emerge again, perhaps as our travellers remember and discuss times gone by, but the South American flavour continues, as do the efforts of our climbers. After what might seem like an endless journey, our travellers hear the faint sound of lapping waves, to finally arrive at the shore of their intended destination.
Movement three ‘Transmigrations’ begins in a more contemplative mood, as if it were a ‘dark night of the soul’, a pause in the optimism and joy of our journey, to be replaced with an exploration of that which is mysterious, dreamy and fantastical. Perhaps a travellers dream or a night-time phantasmagoria of fleeting images and emotions, this movement soon emerges into the sunlight, with a return to the optimistic flavours of the previous movements. The mood begins to uplift significantly, growing in optimism and joy before pulling back again into the mystery and majesty of the night. Indeed, the music seems to suggest a night-flight, a fantastical and mystical story much like that told in Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingstone Seagull novel. However, as with all of the movements on Nature’s Symphony, the specific story details remain just beyond our reach. The movement concludes with delightfully descending arpeggios, as if our seagull and his wider family of friends and relatives have finally concluded their journey, arriving home to settle for the remainder of the night.
‘Inspirations’, the final movement of Nature’s Symphony, opens with the sound of rainfall, like a new day dawning, before revealing itself as another spirited chapter suffused with South American flavour. Flowers bloom in the rain, birds sing and the world is reborn whilst our travellers thread their way through an almost Amazonian undergrowth. As before, joy and optimism abounds, although added to this is a warm and wistful romanticism. Brief English style themes return at various intervals, although these would seem to be more smoothly integrated, as if our travellers now feel at home in their new surroundings. Juxtaposing Amazonian type rhythms with exalted and uplifting classical themes is the flavour of this movement, as if everything we have been through before is being drawn together for this final movement. And then, with one grandiose and joyous passage, we experience the joy and happiness of arriving at our final destination, before an echoing piano disappears into the rain, and our journey finally comes to an end.