Diabolus in Musica


Duration: 16′


for orchestra

3 flutes (= 3 piccolos), 3 oboes (III = cor anglais), 3 clarinets (III = Eb clarinet), 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, piccolo trumpet in D, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (5-6 players), harp, piano (= celesta), strings

First performance: 31 March 2010, BBC Symphony Orchestra, cond: André de Ridder/BBC Maida Vale Studios, London, UK

Listen to an extract below, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.


“…a gripping musical vortex that takes hold of you and doesn’t let go.”

(Tom Service, ‘Hear and Now’, BBC Radio 3)

“…Lloyd Moore’s ‘Diabolus in Musica’ is wonderfully vivacious and inventive. It’s very mature, very distinctive … I’ve been listening to it repeat after repeat … an excellent piece of music.”

(Classical Iconoclast.com)

Programme Note

Although I completed this piece in 2007, ideas and sketches for it date back for some considerable time before that. The initial impetus for the work came from a short piece entitled Quint for five players which I wrote in 2001 and I began to conceive the idea of writing something similar on a larger scale. Although the two pieces have no actual music in common, they share a similar harmonic style and are generally fast and energetic, though, as befits the larger dimensions of an orchestral piece, Diabolus in Musica has a far greater range and variety of material.

As is well-known, the ‘diabolus in musica’ was the name for the interval of the tritone in medieval music. Although there are, obviously, tritones in Diabolus in Musica, they tend to govern underlying harmonic schemes rather than being too obviously apparent on the surface. Structurally, the work proceeds by stages to would-be climaxes which end in collapse each time. After the second of these, a central section at half-speed ensues with woodwind solos over chiming bell sounds. The character of the opening eventually returns, this time proceeding more decisively. A section with stuttering, ‘morse-code’ patterns on three piccolos leads to a somewhat Varèse-like preparation over a pedal point, after which the work’s true climax is reached (confirmed by the attainment of the work’s overall ‘tonic’ pitch of F), followed by a brief coda which drives the resolution home.