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Available as print edition only

Epitaph III: Vocalise (Katyn Wood)

  • Vocalise is the third in a series of works under the collective title of ‘Epitaph’. It is a meditation in remembrance of the 21,768 Polish officers and other intelligentsia massacred at Katyn Wood in the Soviet Union in 1940, an atrocity carried out by the Soviet NKVD but the blame falsely attributed to the invading Nazi forces during the early part of World War II. In 1990 the USSR finally acknowledged and condemned the killings and the initial cover-up. Whilst there are no direct quotations it draws upon and paraphrases aspects of Polish church music. Predominantly contemplative in character, with only fleeting moments of anger, the work exploits the rich sounds of the bass clarinet’s lower register. It is built from a series of linked, thematically related recitatives – both accompanied and unaccompanied – chorale-like melodies, while the piano provides both a sustained harmonic underpinning and a variety of bell sounds.


    The first performance was given by Linda Merrick (bass clarinet) and Benjamin Frith (piano) at the Solihull Theatre, UK on 5 December 1991 as part of the Warwick Arts Festival. The same artists gave the London premiere at Vestry Hall, TVU on 11 May 1993. It was recorded by them on the Serendipity label (Collage SERCD4000) released in 1992 and reissued on the Classicprint label in 1999 (Collage CPVP009CD). 


    The work was newly recorded in 2020 by Linda Merrick (bass clarinet) and Benjamin Powell (piano) on the MER label. Please consult the composer’s website at for further information on this and other recordings in the Epitaph series.


    © 2020 MEM Publications

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