CD A0161: String Delights

String Delights Music Composed by David Johnstone performed by members of the GALA Quartet

String Delights Music Composed by David Johnstone performed by members of the GALA Quartet

Original Romantic and Nationalistic Pieces for String Quartet, String Trio and String Duo. Members of the GALA Quartet perfom the compositions of David Johnstone. The members of the 'GALA' String Quartet are: Violin I - Catalin Bucataru; Violin II - Daniel Francés; Viola - Fernando López Garcín; Violoncello - David Johnstone.

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Track Listing & Audio Samples

1 Fanfare for Europe 2’28”
2 ‘English Serious Frolic’ 3’42”
3 ‘Slavonic Song’  7’12”
4 Poem for the Basque Country  5’18”
5 ‘Mediterranean Skies’ 4’43”
6 ‘Song of the Fiords’ 6’53”
7 ‘Saxon March’ 2’23”
8 ‘Spanish Sarabande’  5’10”
9 ‘Celtic Tarantella’  4’47”
10 ‘Celtic Celebration’ 2’49”
11 ‘Song for Her’  3’33”
12 I Prélude Baroque 3’12”
13 II Chant Romantique 4’44”
14 III Marche Neo-classique 5’51”


CD Notes & Credits

Sleeve Notes

The motivation of the writing of all these compositions comes from two different lines of thought, both reflected in the title of the general work, and both of a special importance at the beginnings of the 21st century. In fact the idea has been to unite the old and the new Europe.

On one hand this project is rather representative of the pleasure that Johnstone feels towards the European Union of the 21st century, having himself shared his life between England and Spain, in particular the Navarre-Basque region. Therefore it should be no surprise that these places are rewarded with a piece each, whilst in the other works it would be more appropriate to speak more of large regions and the generally typical airs rather than name specific countries.

However, these works also suggest the respect of the author towards ‘salon music’ or, to be more exact, towards ‘salon pieces’ of the 19th century, so important in their age  (in an era before radio, television and recordings this was then surely the ‘popular’ music of the day) but unfortunately largely forgotten in today’s world. The composer has deliberately wished to recuperate this age long tradition in these pieces, which can be performed individually as separate pieces or as albums or suites of pieces.  
Each piece has been conceived as a well-crafted creation, with care taken of the distribution of the material, the registers and effects of each of the four instruments and in the counterpoint and imitation developed, therefore hoping that these pieces might be able to take their place as ‘first-class’ salon music … !.

1 - Fanfare for Europe: A striking fanfare to begin an important journey! The small composition is divided in two clear instrumental groups – on one side the two violins, and on the other the viola and cello. Above all a grand majestic feeling reigns.     (Dedication: Catalin Bucataru & Daniel Francés)

2 – ‘English Serious Frolic’ is an apparently light work, but one that covers a more romantic seriousness that remembers, and indeed makes honour to the name of Edward Elgar; whilst at the same time one can see the musical humour of David Johnstone. It is short and compact, with a precise pulsation in the relaxation or pushing forward of the tempo (‘rubato’), and the writing generally portrays an ambience or sonority of an orchestral character within the feel of chamber music.    
(Dedication: Martín Zalba)         

3 – ‘Slavonic Song’ is a profound song where the cello imitates the bass singers of some Eastern European masculine choirs; however all the instruments have their turn in the lyrical passages.  In some moments there is an almost exaggerated harmonic tension, and although in the central section the passion lifts itself higher, the melancholy really reigns throughout the work, and this sadness imposes itself totally in the final bars of the piece.    
(Dedication: Martín Zalba)         

4 - Poem for the Basque Country (‘Poema para Euskalherria’): it is well known that the Zortzico, a strange but charismatic dance in a 5/8 time, has its origins in Euskalherria (Basque Country) a long time ago when it was perhaps more logical to define the area as a great ‘Vasconia’ rather than the frontiers we know today. In progressive generations the vitality of this music no only survives but grows, and the work of Johnstone offers the characteristics of this dance within an European framework, with a couple of ‘hidden’ local tunes in appreciation of this country.   
(Dedication: Belén Otxotorena)

5 – ‘Mediterranean Skies’: this is an elegant piece with a gentle melody, a delicate accompaniment, generally all very transparent, which all put together gives a feeling of the romantic ‘swing’ which one can often feel in many of the Mediterranean zone countries – sunny days, far removed from the grey clouds and cold weather of other parts of the continent!  The small central section contains a part of especial interest and expression for the viola.    
(Dedication: Martín Zalba)    

6 - ‘Song of the Fiords’: a piece written after nearly all the other quartets to complete a narrated concert ‘European Journeys in Quartet’. This is a tender song that describes the love felt by a couple separated by a long fiord (‘the far shore’).  It is of an undefined place, but could refer to the Scandinavian coast or equally to Scotland, Ireland or Galicia (north-west Spain). The music holds a certain air of ancient celtic feel, which becomes almost modal in the intimate song of the central part.    
(Dedication: Alfonso Ortiz)

7 – ‘Saxon March’: a brief march that tries to capture the personality of the Saxon regions in the organization of the phrases, the well disciplined scale-like interventions, and the controlled relaxation of each instrument. However it also offers a freshness of writing not without humour and good fun.    
(Dedication: Martín Zalba)         

8 – ‘Spanish Sarabande’: it is quite well-known that the Sarabande has its origins as a Spanish dance, in slow time, and used to good effect by J.S.Bach, Benjamin Britten and other composers. The Sarabande of Johnstone mixes the sensation of an old dance with the full romanticism of a Viennese Adagietto. It is also a ‘sister-work’ thematically speaking to the Poem for the Basque Country.    
(Dedication: Violet Mary Johnstone, née Iremonger)

9 – ‘Celtic Tarantella’:  In our century the opportunities to journey and work in other countries, in whatever country of the European Union are greater than ever before, which results in an absolute mixture of cultures. In the same way, this musical proposition of Johnstone brings together the ‘Jig’ of the Celtic people from the north of Europe with the Tarantella which is principally found in the southern parts of Italy, all under the influence of the ‘Scherzo’ which was used regularly since Beethoven’s time by Germanic composers. The good-bye message is really saying “we live in different countries but we live in one Europe’ …      
(Dedication: Martín Zalba)

1 (track 10) – ‘Celtic Celebration’: following on from the previous Celtic Tarantella which could be described part-Celtic, part-Italian and part-Classical, this piece is indeed of ‘pure’ celtic ambience -  as if in an inn late at night in a ‘west coast’ port with the beer free-flowing! It is a grand Jig with varying sections and tonalities.
(Dedication: Fernando Saenz de Ugarte)
2 (track 11) – ‘Song for Her’: this is a most gentle and tender instrumental song, with a high lyricism that deliberately intends to remind one of a young man dreaming of his love. The cello plays in arpeggio patterns (almost as a guitarist) whilst the violin and viola sing out, frequently together, their melodies on top.
(Dedication: Fernando Saenz de Ugarte)

I (track 12): Prélude Baroque
II (track 13) Chant Romantique
III (track 14): Marche Neo-classique

The ‘Petite Suite Historique’ is a Suite of three movements for the unusual combination of a Duo for Viola and Cello. However, it is the part of Viola that generally has the more notable part-writing, the cello embracing the viola lines in a supportive manner. It is not really an historical work as such, more that each title is somewhat orientative and descriptive. For this reason, although the first movement ‘Prélude Baroque’ (dedication: Paula Moriones Jimenez) looks back to the preludes of J.S.Bach one can also find a modern ‘intensity’ present rather in the manner of Resphigi. Perhaps the second movement ‘Chant Romantique’  (dedication: Cristina Aznar & Luis Lorenzana) is the most authentic – the beautiful song of the viola could well be a melody from French opera from the nineteenth century, whilst the last movement ‘Marche Neo-classique’ (dedication: Haizea Sola) is a most happy march in ternary form with little ambiguous references to composers like Milhaud and Prokofiev, but above all ‘well-hearted’ music that makes a positive conclusion to an unusual CD disc.


Recording Engineer, Editing and Mastering: Txuma Huarte "Binario"
Recorded at: Auditorio de Barañain, Navarra, Spain
Performance Dates: June & September 2006
Artwork & Graphics: Mikel Urdiroz "Sintesis"
Production: Johnstone-Music

Album Information

Instruments:     String Quartet/Trio/Duo (Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello)
Genre: Contemporary
Format: CD
Our Ref: A0161
Label: Johnstone-Music
Year: 2007
Origin: Spain

Artist Information & Contact Details

Photgraph of David JohnstoneDavid Johnstone is considered one of the most creative and interesting string players in the Iberian peninsula today, combining a career as a cellist with that of a busy composer. Although British by birth he has, for over a decade, been principal cellist of the 'Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra' of Spain, and a composer who specializes in string and/or lighter classical writing. In particular, he composes for all the bowed string instruments as soloists, and for chamber groups of various sizes (some including wind and brass instruments). He also specializes in writing String Orchestra pieces that are well within the capabilities of youth and conservatoire orchestras, whilst other compositions are better suited to fully professional ensembles (such as the 'Camerata Cambrensis', conducted by Caroline Collier, who have premiered several works). Indeed, many of his compositions are now published by Creighton's Collection, UK ( / see the section 'Sheet Music'). His compositions have been heard in more than thirty countries across five continents and on European radio stations and television channels particularly Spanish National Television 'Tele Cinco', who have featured many of his chamber works.

Photograph of David JohnstoneAs a performer he has European-wide orchestral and ensemble experience, including playing for renowned orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Concert Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and the English String Orchestra. He has also performed in London West-End shows such as Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Barnum etc., and regularly recorded for BBC Radio programmes. As an arranger, his adventurous attitude has seen him arrange anything from solo cello to full orchestra with choir, and also to folk-influenced music from around the world. Additionally, he has organized the music for multi-cello groups, composed for animation films (especially for Channel 4 Television, UK), improvised on the cello in silent films (Cine Chimera), ventured into jazz (with the Basque pianist Mikel Gaztelurrutia), into ragtime (the London Ragtime Orchestra), and into celtic based music (especially Scottish).

Photograph of David JohnstoneHe is at present a member of the well-established concert trio 'B3 Classic' (clarinet-cello-piano), of Neofusion (with its base of accordion and cello, with Javier López Jaso), and of new-age formations led by Joaquin Taboada). He also participates in varying projects with the well-known Spanish actress and presenter Belén Otxotorena, and with the Spanish film composer Mikel Salas.

He is married to Rosa María and has two children, Kevin and Jon-Erik. They live near Pamplona, the capital city of the Navarre region of Spain. His hobbies include current affairs and politics, all things ‘Celtic’ (especially geography and travel), animals (and animal welfare and animal rights), and most sports (he is a life-long fan of Reading Football Club!).

Contact Details David Johnstone
PO Box 7003
31080 Pamplona
Telephone & Fax 0034 - 948 - 351869
Booking Please contact David Johnstone (details above)
Web site

Recordings by David Johnstone

Also in Creighton's Collection featuring David Johnstone
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Sheet Music by David Johnstone

Creighton's Collection prints & distributes David Johnstone's compositions
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The Scores shown above are recorded on String Delights