Forms

A reflection on sound and figures past and present
6.27.20
Fidelis Farms, VA

Limestone and Felt (2012)                                                                                                    Caroline Shaw

 1982 –

Danielle Wiebe Burke, viola                                                                                   

Schuyler Slack, cello

 

 

 

Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin (trans. for viola)                               J.S. Bach

                                      1685 – 1750 

Danielle Wiebe Burke, viola                                                                                                                           

           

 

 

Sarabande from Suite No. 6 for solo cello                                                                                   J.S. Bach

 

Schuyler Slack, cello

 

 

 

Echo Lake (2009)                                                                                                                       Evan Premo

1986 –

Schuyler Slack, cello                                                                                               

 

 

 

Fuga Libre (2008)                                                                                                                       Garth Knox

1956 –

Danielle Wiebe Burke, viola                                                                                   

 

 

 

Duet in E flat major “With two obbligato eyeglasses”                                                 L. van Beethoven

 1770­ – 1827 

Danielle Wiebe Burke, viola                                                                           

Schuyler Slack, cello

The concept of this recital came about as we searched for ways to program some of our favorite pieces. So much of the music we play is, consciously or not, a reflection on what came before, and, in this case, specifically on structures or emotions. Limestone and Felt opens us up in a church, a physically old form. The Chaconne is a fifteen-minute marathon in a Baroque form. The Sarabande has similar roots, a Baroque dance form, emphasizing the same beats as the Chaconne. Echo Lake explores the magnificence of the cello in a large arc form, hearkening back to the ever-masterful Bach through its use of open space. Fuga Libre takes on a fugue, an old Baroque form, with a playful and intense twist. And lastly, the Eyeglasses duet brings us back to the Classical era with a reminder of friendship and tradition.

 

 

Limestone and Felt

Much of Caroline Shaw’s music is choral, and, as such, has been performed in sacred spaces that have allowed her to observe the way sound behaves in old churches and cathedrals. Limestone and Felt takes that concept and translates it into string playing. The harsh yet echoing sound of consonants, footsteps, or, in this case snap pizzicato (played by pulling the string and letting it snap back) contrast with the warm, colorful, absorbent felt. Shaw connects the supplicating nature of the “felt” sounds – chords and melodic phrases – with the rhythmic, driving, almost visual “limestone.” And so, we begin in a physical form: walking through a church, listening to sound.

-D.W.B.

 

Chaconne

A Chaconne is a baroque dance based on an eight-measure bassline. The goal of the dance is variation – the bass emphasizes two beats in a row (which you will see repeated throughout with the two-bow figure), and the challenge is to maintain clarity in that structure or form amidst the sheer number of notes surrounding and building on the organic bass. The piece is in three large sections, all three individual and unique in sound and feel, yet connected through rhythm and key. In a large arch form, the Chaconne is bookended by its main theme, full of gravitas and fulfillment. I encourage you to meditate on the emotions put forth by each section, rather than to be overwhelmed by the massive scope of the piece – listen for connections, in rhythm and melody, in technique and in style.

-D.W.B.

 

Sarabande

The Sarabande from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 6 is perhaps regarded as the most tender and romantic movement in all of the six cello suites. A traditional lover’s dance from Spain, the Sarabande is used in each of the suites as a sensual and reflective foil to the boisterous Courante movement that precedes it. This sixth Sarabande enjoys a rich, full texture with a minimum of two voices complementing each other at any given moment to create a warm feeling of togetherness. I wanted to perform it this evening because after so many months of not being able to perform, I am thankful to be here tonight, celebrating this togetherness with you.

-S.S.

 

Echo Lake

Evan Premo wrote Echo Lake in 2009 as a student at the University of Michigan. I only discovered this piece recently, but its boundless harmonies and melodic gestures have been a wonderful escape to play and enjoy. From gently plucked chords to churning arpeggios, this piece is a wonderful demonstration of the wide versatility of the cello and simultaneously pushes its expressive boundaries to its limits. It includes comments to play passages “like a stretch in the cool morning air,” “soaring with a driving backbeat,” and “remembering the wonder of the morning.” I feel it’s a piece we can all relate to this summer as we reminisce about simpler times but also look forward to sunnier days ahead.

-S.S.

 

 

Fuga Libre

One of the preeminent composers of modern viola music, Garth Knox composed Fuga Libre as the required piece for all contestants in an international viola competition. A serious affair, Knox’s piece takes a serious form – the fugue, a traditional form that employs a single theme with voices added to it in sequence – and turns it into a fun, albeit wild piece. The title puns on the rum drink Cuba libre, and Knox incorporates elements of snappy Spanish flair throughout. Notice the different techniques the piece requires: harmonics, pizzicato, ponticello (playing on the bridge), sul tasto (playing on the fingerboard), and more. These not only challenge the musician, but also encourage the listener to broaden their perspectives on the range of sounds classical instruments can create.

-D.W.B.

 

 

Duet for Viola and Cello, “With two Obbligato Eyeglasses”

Though we often think of Beethoven as the scowling, serious figure in historical paintings and behind minor-key masterworks, this quirky piece reveals a side not often encountered. Composed for himself and his friend the Baron of Hungary, the title playfully jabs at their mutually poor eyesight. The Italian Obbligato means precisely what its English cognate implies: necessity. However, in music, the term refers more specifically to an instrument or part that is essential to a piece. The joke here is that the musical instrument paramount to the duet’s success is not musical at all, but rather two pairs of eyeglasses needed to see the music! The joyful duet imparts a sense of friendship with its very classical and traditional form, and, for us, was irresistible in the ways it requires musical, non-verbal communication and understanding of a fellow human.  

-D.W.B.

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