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So light upon the wind …
aria for eleven instruments


flute (piccolo/alto flute), clarinet in A (bass clarinet), horn, tuba, harp, piano,

2 violins, viola, cello, double bass



Year of composition:


Commissioned by:



Lontano / conducted by Odaline de la Martinez,

BMIC Cutting Edge series, The Warehouse, London, 17 October 2002

I - Introduction,

II - Prelude,

III - Aria


As Dante enters the Second Circle, he reaches a place where ‘all light is mute and where was bellowing as of a sea in tempest that is beaten by conflicting winds’.  Here, those ‘carnal sinners who subjected reason to desire’ are condemned never to find repose.  Dante is intrigued by ‘two that go together and seem so light upon the wind’.  They are Francesca da Rimini and Paolo, her brother-in-law, who had been killed by Francesca’s husband.


The Introduction leads to an extended Prelude followed by a short ‘Aria without words’: ‘In the time of thy sweet sighing how and by what occasion did love grant you to know your uncertain desires?’ asks Dante (tuba and double bass).  On hearing Francesca’s account of the love that ‘brought them to one death’ (flute), Dante swoons.


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