Six Preludes

Harrison, James

About the work

The piece was commissioned for the East Midlands COMA ensemble with funds from the Arts Council of England. The first performance was given in Newark in October 1999, by East Midlands COMA with players from the Orchestra of St John’s, conducted by John Lubbock. Six Preludes is flexibly scored and can accommodate numerous instrumental combinations. Each of the preludes has a distinct character, generated in part from Descartes’ classifications of the emotions – ‘six simple and primitive passions’ – in Passions of the Soul of 1646.

1 – a monolithic structure viewed from several perspectives;

2 – smooth, gently curving lines, gathering momentum;

3 – jostling blocks of music: fast and punchy;

4 – slow and static, stifling and ‘almost unbearable’ ;

5 – a quick celebratory dance with a lightness of foot ;

6 – slow and funereal, with a heavy heart: Prelude XXII from J.S. Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier (Book 1)

Technical notes

The piece has 6 melody lines, each of which may be played by a variety of instruments, and lists of possible instrumentation are included in the score. They are intended to be played by between 15 and 25 players


COMA, with funds from the Arts Council of England


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score & parts


Sample score



15m 00s




Flexible Ensemble with Keyboard


six groups of melody instruments, perc, pf


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