Duo for Violin and Cello (1978)
Winner, 1979 Eva Thompson Phillips Award for Composition
Duo for Violin and Cello is a short, lively piece in roughly A-B-A form, featuring spiky rhythms and spicy harmonies. It may surprise the listener to learn that the slower-moving middle section, which builds to an impressive climax and then slowly unwinds, is actually an extended retrograde canon at the 7th between the two solo instruments. After the original material returns in modified form, the repetitive rhythmic aspect of the music becomes increasingly emphasized, leading to a wild, gypsy-like passage before ending in a flourish.
Duo for Violin and Cello was written in 1978 while I was a composition student at San Jose State University. – Lee Actor
Steven A. Kennedy
Marian Sonata for Violin and Piano
The Marian Sonata (2005) is a musical polyptych of the Life of Christ. It was written for Marion and Mary Nesvadba whose names and faithful dedication to students served as the basis of inspiration for the piece.
“Advent l’enfant,” utilizes the Advent antiphon, “Alma Redemptoris Mater,” it is melded with the French Carol, “Il est ne le divin enfant,” whose melodic idea is the basis for the celebratory opening of the piece. The two form a free fantasia of the two musical ideas.
“Lento Doloroso,” reflects on the walk to the cross. The antiphon “Ave Regina Caelorum” merges with the hymn, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” meditatively. It appears as a condensed chordal form as well as laying out crucifixion motifs. The violin looks on these final moments. The movement culminates with the dramatic pounding of the nails.
“Resurrectio,” opens with deep rumblings in the piano representing the movement of the stone from the tomb. At some deeper level, I wrote these for descriptive intent and only later realized that the number of notes in the piano are “good” numbers in Christian theology: 7, 5, and 3. The violin outlines the antiphon, “Regina Caeli.” Excitement then follows running ascending figures sharing the news of the empty tomb. The hymn, “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today,” begins to appear enters into the fabric of the material. The “alleluia” becomes a sort of refrain as the movement progresses. (Interestingly, Vit and Lucie began recording this movement at precisely 5am Eastern Time!)
“Jubillatio Spiritu,” celebrates the arrival of the Holy Spirit and the sending out into the world. A sense of uneasiness opens as we feel the Spirit blowing into the room. The antiphon “Salve Regina” and the hymn tune, “Marion” (“Rejoice, O Pilgrim Throng!”) brings us to a close. The hymn’s text, written by Edward Plumptre in the 19th century, has one verse that sums up this sonata:
With voice as full and strong
As ocean’s surging praise,
Send forth the sturdy hymns of old,
The psalms of ancient days.
The refrain of the hymn, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice, give thanks, and sing!” becomes the material that closes off each section of the antiphon quoted here.
Special thanks to Reggie Buresh, Kate Conran, HealingBaskets.com, Wes and Corrine Lindstrom, Craig Wall, the PARMA team, and most of all to my wife, Erica, for all her support.
— Steven Kennedy
Aria Sonata for Violin and Piano
The work has been written for the duo Boni Rietveld (trumpet) and Jaap Stork (organ), as a joint tribute to Francis Poulenc, whose music is dear to the three of us. Poulenc's self-portrait "half-rascal, half-monk" is reflected in the subdivisions of the Aria: "Doucement expressif (gently expressive) - Follement gai (crazily cheerful) - Tempo I". No literal quotations from Poulenc's oeuvre are given, but the atmosphere and technique are close to the original. — Peter Greve
As suggested by the name, Blue Plea has a plaintive quality. It also illustrates the influence of jazz on my composing, although as usual this is not by design, but rather it just happens. But no work can stay plaintive throughout. The music has to go somewhere, explore, develop, elaborate on what it's saying. Then, perhaps, it can return to where it started — or not, or yes but with something changed.
The piece was surely influenced, albeit subliminally, by the 2nd movement of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet. (How can anyone writing for clarinet not be influenced by it?) You can hear this in the alternation of long, sustained melody and rapid, register-traversing runs. I intend the work to sound like a spontaneous song, an improvisational lament that only discovers where it is going as it proceeds.
Blue Plea opens with the descending three note plea motif. This recurs with variously transformed intervals and a small counter-subject that ascends before dropping at the end. The plea and the counter-subject are then developed in an exploratory, questioning manner, until the questioning itself takes over and the riffs begin. These riffs form the center of the piece, building tension until, finally, the motif and counter-subject return, inverted, leading to a final ascending cry that ends on a long, sustained note. — Sidney Bailin
Duo for flute and piano
Rather than give this three-movement work for flute and piano a traditional name like “sonata” or “sonatina” I decided to call it a “duo” in order to draw not only the performers’ attention to the nature of the music but also the attention of the listeners. The “dual” nature of the music is already evident at the very beginning when what the two instruments are playing resembles the opening measures of a two-part invention by J. S. Bach; there is here a similarity, even an equality, of roles being established; a relationship, however, that becomes almost contentious when each seems to try to establish dominance over the other. As the movement ends, however, it is clear that the two contenders have been reconciled as they finish the movement quietly.
In the second movement, the flute part at first seems to be pleased to prolong the quality with which the previous movement ended, and the piano appears to agree by echoing the flute solo. However, it then unexpectedly alternates between moments of peacefulness and moments of uninvited ferocity. The two parts seem almost irrational as they express this ferocity but then regain their control and become peaceful once again as the piano part wanders into the distance.
With its enthusiasm the third movement seems to tell the listener that what the previous two movements had expressed never really happened. Once again the two parts frequently imitate each other whether they are singing or whether they are dancing and end the movement together with an enthusiastic clap. — Allen Brings
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