I. Prelude (viola, clarinet, bassoon, double bass)
II. Courante (viola, clarinet, bassoon)
III. Sarabande (viola and clarinet)
IV. Loure (solo viola)
solo viola with clarinet, bassoon and double bass
duration: 10 minutes
Small Suite was premiered by Con Vivo Music in Jersey City, NJ on May 20, 2012
For the last couple of years I have been writing contemporary versions of baroque dances. There is something about the order and dignity contained in the meter and forms of these dances that attracts me and seems to work as a good foil for my musical instincts. The Prelude is perhaps the least baroque of all the movements but beneath the multiphonic swirl of the other instruments first the viola and then the bassoon declaim a short-short-long figure that is like a very distant cousin of Brandenburg 3.
The Courante uses a similar motive to skitter insitently around some harmonically ambiguous realms before breaking out in a moment of almost G Major, adapted from the Courante of the Bach’s G Major French Suite. Not surprisingly, this does not last long, peetering out before a short, almost apologetic recapitulation.
The timing is not quite right in this Sarabande – it is as if someone is alternately pressing slow motion and fast forward on the remote , so the piece becomes a caricature of a dance. Yet I think both the courtly European dance and its wild Spanish ancestor are strongly present underneath the surface.
The Loure begins more or less in the manner of a Baroque Loure – slow and stately with a distinctive short-long figure that acts as a pickup. But there is an energy bubbling up beneath the surface of this Loure that I could not suppress. In my piece, the dignified feel of the Loure is gradually replaced with something much more wild. However, this wildness can not sustain itself either and the piece ends mostly as it began. Each successive movement is longer than the previous one and involves fewer instruments until only the viola remains for the Loure. The piece as a whole leaves me with a strangely sad feeling but I hope the listener enjoys its fleeting moments of grace.