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John Harbison

Publisher: AMP

The Violist's Notebook, Book I (2000)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Solo Works (excluding keyboard)
Year Composed
8 Minutes

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Programme Note
John Harbison The Violist's Notebook, Book I (2000)
The name Bartolomeo Campagnoli is lost in the mists of history. I confess that I know nothing about him except that he wrote inventive, musical, satisfying viola etudes. In general, no pedagogical etudes need have any place in the education of a musician (I remember especially the miserable pedantry of the famous Kreutzer violin studies). But Campagnoli is recalled by a few violists as a good composer (probably a violist himself), a congenial spirit, a musician who encouraged us to expand our technique by dangling an elegantly musical carrot on a stick.

As I began keeping my violist's notebooks I thought of Campagnoli, his practical, modest, subversively challenging communications with his violist colleagues, then as now some of the best people in the world and hoped my messages would reach a few of them now and even in the future.

My brief etudes are more compositional than technical studies. Each is dedicated to a violist, mostly hard-core, but a few doublers are included.

Book I was assembled in the margins, over two years. Book II was written one a day, a self-assigned experiment.

The pieces can be performed in any sequence or grouping. In the case a conclave of violists were involved on some occasion I added the Cuccaracia and Fugue for four violists (or viola orchestra). It is begins with a species of viola joke, but continues, in thematically related short fugue, more serioso or perhaps more pomposo.

—John Harbison

  • Soloist(s)
    Anthea Kreston (Viola)
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