These four orchestral pieces take their collective title from the ‘Sarcasms’ Op.17 of Sergei Prokofiev, a collection of short pieces for solo piano composed between 1912 and 1914. I’ve been interested for a long time in the double-sided expressive qualities of Prokofiev as well as Shostakovich; composers whose works can often be read in differing ways. This type of double-expressiveness has a peculiarly Russian character to it – indeed there’s a specific word used in Russian literary criticism. The concept of the ‘yurodivy’, or 'holy fool', is one that has been applied to a number of Russian Orthodox saints, as well as Russian literary figures like Gogol and Dostoyevsky, and composers such Shostakovich and Prokofiev. One could understand these four orchestral pieces in the same vein of expressive ambiguity as Prokofiev and Shostakovich, where music that appears to be saying one thing could in fact be taken as saying something else.
'Sarcasms' commissioned by Radió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) for the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. The first performance was given by the RTÉ NSO with conductor Gavin Maloney, as part of the RTE NSO 2015 'Horizons' series. The work is dedicated to Martin Adams.