Cantilena dates from 1987 and captures a popular flavour, borrowing freely from pop, jazz and rock styles. Primary and secondary chords are used in arpeggiated piano figures, emulating mainstream ballads. Pedal notes are a feature, especially on the tonic note, and a ‘bluesy’ style emerges in the third main theme. A pseudo-rock style is twice used on the climax section, which acts as a song-like chorus.
The title derives from the prominent use of sustained, smooth-flowing melodic lines; indeed the melody was inspired by an arietta from an opera, Yellow Earth Ridge (1976), which has since been withdrawn by the composer. Originally composed for sax and piano, the piece has since been idiomatically arranged for numerous instruments.
The introduction uses ‘wrong-note’ harmony (notably flattened sevenths) to produce ambiguous tonality. The piece demonstrates a range of tone colour for the soloist, across a wide melodic range.