Biography of Marshall Nicholas:
Nicholas Marshall was born in 1942 in Plymouth and studied music at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, and at the Royal College of Music. As well as much choral and chamber music he has written extensively for the recorder, and several works have entered the instrument’s standard repertoire.
The composer writes: Various aspects of nature feature in each of these six settings of Ted Hughes, and particularly animals, where the world is seen both through their eyes and in their relationship to man. Ted Hughes was profoundly influenced by the natural world and the landscape of north Devon, where he settled, held special significance for him. In Fourth of July he imagines a primeval America and compares it to the present day where people ‘Wait dully at the traffic crossing, Or lean over headlines, taking nothing in.’ An idyllic rural prospect on a hot summer’s day is pictured in Cat and Mouse, but seen from the perspective of the mouse, frozen into inaction for fear of being caught by the cat! In Roarers in a Ring a fox gazes at the light of an inn from a snowbound moor. It is Christmas Eve and inside the local farmers are making merry, but there is a hint of hysteria in their gaiety against the backdrop of the falling snow outside, and as they rowdily make their way home before dawn the world whirls ‘Gay and forever, in the bottomless black Silence through which it fell.’ Another wintery scene is depicted in Snowdrop, where weasel and crow ‘Move through an outer darkness,’ while the snowdrop appears ‘Brutal as the stars of this month.’ The brutality of nature is a recurrent theme of Hughes. In Theology the Garden of Eden story is turned on its head - it was actually Adam who ate Eve, Eve who ate Adam, and the serpent who ate Eve! There is an element of tension in these first five poems, but it seems reconciled in the last song, in which the fern ‘dances gravely’ amid the trusting spider and mouse. Cat and Mouse was written in 1977 and first performed in Manchester by Owen Wynne, John Turner and Keith Elcombe.