Tansy Davies's own instrument, the horn, has always occupied a special place in her music - buzzing away abrasively in her Falling Angel, or crying out with yearning in her orchestral labyrinth Wild Card - but it is especially spotlighted in her latest project, a concerto for four horns and orchestra entitled Forest.
Co-commissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra for its 70th jubilee, New York Philharmonic and the Warsaw Autumn Festival for its 60th jubilee (where Davies's trumpet concerto Spiral House was received with acclaim in 2014), the twenty-minute work is the brainchild of Esa-Pekka Salonen (a horn player himself), who conducted Forest in Basingstoke, London, Madrid and New York. the Philharmonia's current principal horns, Katy Woolley and Nigel Black, were joined by two of their predecessors, Richard Watkins and Michael Thompson.
Teeming with what The Guardian called an "inventive energy," Forest pits the quartet of soloists against a vast tapestry of orchestral sound. "The four horns represent the most human element of the work, and the journey of the piece is a growing dialogue between the soloists and the orchestra - or forest - that surrounds them," says Davies. Whilst much of the music is visceral and almost violent, there are moments of dreamlike repose, too. In the words of Davies: "We arrive at a point of absolute stillness and rest there for a long time. Something has melted and there is a fusion between the forest and the horns, at which point the horn players start playing only natural harmonics." the music culminates in one final raucous dance - marked "crisp and funky" - before dissolving away into shimmering strings.