for string quintet2 violins, viola, cello, doublebass (2010)
|Movements||I. Elegy (to the memory of my father) |
II. Suspended Adagio
IV. Adagio - Transcendent Coda
N.B. movements I and III can each be performed separately.
|Commission||Commissioned by the Eiler Foundation|
|Premiere||May 16, 2010; Jersey City, New Jersey, Toomai String Quintet|
We know the "Adagio" as an umbrella term that includes many musical genres, including Elegy, In Memorial, March Funere, Pavane, Meditation, Nocturne, and Dance as well as well-known symphonic movements. In immersing myself in the styles and many works written in these styles, I confronted one common quality of music that is by definition "at ease:" all of these pieces use the formal clarity of a single movement to achieve a heightened sense of expressivity from limited materials or starting points.
Having a rejuvenated appreciation for the breadth of possibilities while simultaneously wanting to compose a more substantial work than a single movement (most Adagios are under eight minutes), I decided to write three Adagios, with a fourth short movement as a coda to the work as a whole.
The first movement, Elegy (to the memory of my father), begins with perfect crescendo cutoff's being passed back and forth between instruments (with touches of tonal harmonies and non-melodic characteristics reminiscent of my father's musical influence). Alternating groups of instruments with different phrase lengths slowly unfold to create elaborate polyrhythms of sound, ultimately building to a powerful end. The second movement is a Suspended Adagio, where musical development is replaced by intensification. In this shorter movement, "at rest" becomes complete stillness (yet still out of breath by the end!). The third movement, Solo, has the viola spin out a never ending melody to heroic proportions with kaleidoscopic textural support from the ensemble, ending with a monolithically crushing intensity and stillness.
There is also a meta-narrative in these three adagios, albeit a non-linear one: the soul of the individual descending and confronting death (Movement III - Solo), facing the moment of truth (Movement II - Suspended Adagio), being reflected upon by others (Movement I - Elegy), and disappearing back into the aether (Movement IV - Slow Adagio - Transcendent Coda).