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ALONG DARK PATHS (Per Opaca Viarium) for Wind Orchestra by KENNETH HESKETH (England, 1968)

[#256] June 17, 2024

2021 | Wind Ensemble | Grade 6 | 22’ | Tone Poem

English composer Kenneth Hesketh

Along Dark Paths (Per Opaca Viarium), by English composer Kenneth Hesketh is our Composition of the Week.

Along Dark Paths was commissioned by the “Koninklijk Harmonieorkest Vooruit Harelbeke”, Belgium, and is dedicated to them and Mr. Erik Desimpelaere in friendship.

Co-commissioners of the work were the Landesblasorchester Baden-Württemberg, Germany, (conductor Björn Bus) as well as Skyline Communications and Nationale Loterij - Loterie Nationale, from the city of Harelbeke.


The world premiere performance of Along Dark Paths (Per Opaca Viarum) was given by the Koninklijk Harmonieorkest Vooruit Harelbeke, conductor Erik Desimpelaere, 31 July 2022, WMC Kerkrade, The Netherlands.


The work is structured in four movements, I.Ambages (furore); II. Obsecratio; III. Ambages (flammae); IV. Errores and has a total duration of about 22 minutes.


It calls for a very large wind orchestra instrumentation including 6 solo celli, considered integral part of the composition, even though they are cued in the score and other instrumental parts to be used in a rehearsal situation if they were not immediately available.


The detailed instrumentation is:


  • Piccolo, Flute 1 (3), Flute 2 (3)

  • Oboe 1, Oboe 2, Cor Anglais

  • Bassoon 1, Bassoon 2, Contrabassoon

  • Clarinet in Eb, Clarinet in Bb 1 (6), Clarinet in Bb 2 (6), Clarinet in Bb 3 (6)

  • Bass clarinet in Bb (2), Contra-alto clarinet in Eb, Contrabass clarinet in Bb

  • Soprano sax. in Bb, Alto sax. 1, 2 in Eb, Tenor sax. in Bb, Baritone sax. in Eb, Bass sax. in Bb


  • Trumpets (6): 1st Trp. in C (doubling Picc. Trp. in Bb), 2-4 Trp. in C, 5-6 Trp. in Bb

  • Horns in F (4)

  • Trombone 1, Trombone 2, Bass Trombone

  • Euphonium

  • Tuba (3)

  • Celli (6)

  • Double Basses (4)

  • Timpani

  • Percussion (6 players):

  1. vibraphone; 10-inch gong cymbal; whip; 4 floor toms

  2. crotales (2 octave, C4-C6); triangle; medium tam-tam; 10-inch gong cymbal; susp. cymbal

  3. low tam-tam; medium tam-tam (doub. with perc. 4); 4 floor toms; ride cymbal (with bow)

  4. medium tam-tam; marimba (5 octave); triangle; xylophone; suspended cymbal; side drum; china cymbal; high splash; clash cymbal; 10-inch gong cymbal.

  5. Tubular bells; medium tam-tam (doub. with perc. 4).

  6. Bass drum; ride cymbal (with bow); medium tam-tam; ratchet.

  • Piano

  • Celesta (5 octave)

  • Harp



“[…] a substantial range of colours is always something I seek to exploit in my work, and Along Dark Paths is no exception to this. However, the blending and phasing of colours, the quicksilver changes in the piece (and consequent technical demands) were certainly one of a few important features present during the planning and pre-compositional work and that I was keen to use as a specific compositional determinant. Another was the idea of a labyrinthine aspect in the structure of the work – again a favourite structural model in my work – in that the piece regularly retraces its directions and ideas to ultimately find different musical situations and atmospheres to recontextualize […] I have never had the option to use multiple celli and bassi in a wind piece before, so I certainly wanted to use this wonderful sound in relief from time to time as well as to provide a colour reflection or distortion of other instrumental combinations. As part of the larger string group the celli provide a dramatic impulse and resonance, whilst providing gestures, harmonics (pitches and glisses) not available elsewhere.”


Interview to Kenneth Hesketh taken from BASBWE Winds Magazine, Spring 2024 issue.



Along Dark Paths is available at Cecilian Music Publishers.


Kenneth Hesketh has been described as “one of the UK's most vibrant voices, having a brand of modernism that reveals true love for sound itself” (International Piano) and as "a composer who both has something to say and the means to say it” (Tempo magazine). Hesketh has received numerous national and international commissions and has worked with leading ensembles and orchestras in the USA, Far East and Europe. He is a professor of composition and orchestration at the Royal College of Music, honorary professor at Liverpool University and active as a guest lecturer.


He has received numerous national and international commissions, including the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, a Faber Millennium Commission for Birmingham Contemporary Music Group premiered under Sir Simon Rattle, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko, the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Vasilly Sinaisky, Hans Werner Henze and the Endymion Ensemble (in honour of Henze's 75th birthday), the Munich Biennale, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the Michael Vyner Trust for the London Sinfonietta, the Göttinger Symphonie Orchester, The Opera Group, Britten Sinfonia, ensemble Psappha and Kissinger Sommer Internationales Musikfestival. Between 2007 to 2009 Hesketh was Composer in the House (Royal Philharmonic Society/ PRS Foundation scheme) with the RLPO. He has been represented at festivals from London (Proms) to the USA (Tanglewood/Bowdoin) to China (Beijing Modern Music Festival). In 2017 Hesketh's 'In Ictu Oculi' for wind orchestra won the 'Wind Band or Brass Band' category of the 2017 British Composer Awards. The panel described the winning piece “as a mature and highly imaginative work that gives the listener an ever more rewarding experience. The writing for instruments show complete mastery of the medium with continually evolving and evocative textures."


His work has been recorded by BIS, NMC, London Sinfonietta, Psappha and Prima Facie labels; the first NMC recording (titled Wunderkammer(konzert) and released in 2013) was devoted to large ensemble and orchestral works. A disc of Hesketh's piano music performed by pianist Clare Hammond was released by BIS in 2016; in the same year the Prima Facie label released a chamber music disc performed by the Continuum Ensemble. All discs were released to critical acclaim.


Hesketh's natural flair for the theatrical has led to work for the stage. His dance work, Forms entangled, shapes collided, commissioned by ensemble Psappha and Phoenix Dance Theatre, through the support of The Royal Philharmonic Society Drummond Fund, toured nationally throughout 2013 with final performances in the Royal Opera House’s Lindbury Theatre. His interest in the bizarre and eerie on celluloid has led to three scores for the medium, including ‘a darting, phantastical score’ (The Telegraph) for ‘Hände’, premiered by pianist Clare Hammond. A score for the film ‘Ein Lichtspiel, Schwarz-weiss-grau’ (1930) by the Hungarian László Moholy-Nagy was deemed "a refreshingly unique, novel and hugely intelligent approach to the mechanical in music" ( whilst his score for Theatre of Attractions "inhabits a more darkly-hued sound-world. Obsessive rhythms are combined with immense elemental energy that spills over into unbridled aggression and a manic sense of propulsion." (Musicweb-international).


“Hesketh's music is beautiful, complex and restless ... His response to musical form is particularly remarkable ... The colorful orchestration and palpable verve in the individual gestures and large-scale construction make me want to return to them again and again.” American Record Guide.
From composer’s website



More information on Kenneth Hesketh



Other works for winds include:


  • Danceries, sets 1 and 2 (1999/2011)

  • Masque (2001)

  • Diaghilev Dances (2002)

  • Infernal Ride (2003)

  • Vranjanka (2005)

  • Autumn’s Elegy (2013)

  • In Ictu Oculi (2015)






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