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Robert Xavier Rodríguez

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Les Niais Amoureux (1989)
Alhambra RXR
Small Ensemble (2-6 players)
Sub Category
Piano Quartet
Year Composed
15 Minutes
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Programme Note
Robert Xavier Rodríguez Les Niais Amoureux (1989)
Composer note:

Les Niais Amoureux (1989) for violin, clarinet, cello and piano was commissioned by the Aeolian Chamber Players and premiered in New York in May, 1989. The quartet is in variation form and is based on two melodies: Les Niais de Sologne, keyboard variations by Jean-Phillipe Rameau (1683-1764), and a fragment from Le Diable Amoureux (1979), my first opera — hence the composite title, Les Niais Amoureux ("Innocents in Love").

The quartet begins with a seductive cello melody from a scene in Le Diable Amoureux in which a medieval baron, under the influence of the Devil's spell, makes amorous advances to his son's fiancée. The contour of this rising theme, with its simple hypnotic accompaniment of a trill and a repeated broken chord (D, B-flat, E), figures prominently in the variations to come. The sprightly Rameau, which interrupts, is similarly replete with trills. The ensuing variations also draw from the frequent two-against-three accompaniment patterns and regular sectional divisions of the Rameau, each marked by a pronounced change of texture in the Baroque manner.

These two melodies collide at first, but their styles gradually merge into a synthesis as the colorful music of the Devil's spell serves to initiate (or "deniaiser") the Rameau into a richer, chromatic vocabulary. The spell music is likewise transformed in the process, becoming more "innocent" through a quasi-tonal musical language in which vertical sonorites built in sixths and thirds resolve to simple triads (the previous D, B-flat, E moving, for instance, to D, B-flat, F).

— Robert Xavier Rodríguez

  • Soloist(s)
    Emmanuel Borok, Violin; Ross Powell, Clarinet; Christopher Adkins, Cello; Jo Boatright, Piano
Les Niais Amoureaux is inspired by two very different melodies: a fragment from Mr. Rodríguez's opera Le Diable Amoureux (1979) and a melody from a set of 18th-century keyboard variations by Jean-Phillipe Rameau entitled Les Niais de Sologne. Mr. Rodríguez combined the two themes and produced the composite title, Les Niais Amoureux. The first movement, a larghetto amoroso, starts with each theme stated backtoback, followed by a gradual synthesis of the disparate melodies and styles. This synthesis is achieved by each melody gradually taking some of the characteristics of the other. The result is a fascinating variation structure that holds its interest over repeated hearings. The second movement, an allegro cantabile, is the most complex, longest, and most technically demanding. The final movement, marked larghissimo tranquillo and containing only 29 measures, is a kind of relaxed apotheosis and a satisfying conclusion. Of how many late 20th-century works can it be said that it contains haunting melodies which stay in the memory long after the performance? Such is the case with this wonderfully rich, imaginative score. It has a unique voice, and is highly recommended.
Larry Guy, The Clarinet, March 2010,01/01/0001
...What gives the piece its spark is the two tunes. They’re sharply different, and it’s intriguing to hear how Rodríguez juxtaposes and manipulates them over the course of 14 minutes. The Rodríguez melody is dark and sober; the Rameau light and jaunty... The piece is in theme-and-variation form, but there’s no telling what tune Rodríguez is going to pick up an play with next.
Roxanne Orgill, Musical America,01/01/0001
... may be the most erotic music ever composed... The cello sings a gorgeous, bedroom-eyes melody, languorous but insistent. Piano, clarinet and violin introduce charming music quoted from Rameau. These two ideas interact in wonderfully complex ways throughout the piece, which closes with music of yielding tenderness.
Mike Greenberg, San Antonio Express-News,01/01/0001
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