Although The Triumph of Time is one of Birtwistle's most celebrated early pieces very little has been written about it to date. Probably the most comprehensive analytical review appeared in Michael Hall's 1984 biography Harrison Birtwistle. This was largely valuable for presenting, in the context of a well-informed account of the composer's early output, particular aspects of Birtwistle's intention. Others have added little, while some remarks made by the composer in various interviews have seemed so strangely contradictory that they can only be evaluated by an independent idea of how the structure works from the evidence of the score itself. The method of approach becomes a major aspect of the discussion and analysis presented. In considering the dramatic superstructure, the way detail fits into this, and the relationship with the eponymous Bruegel etching, the aim of the current article has been to consider the work ‘on its own terms’ as far as possible.
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