March 16, 2009
Soli Chamber Ensemble
Gallery Nord, San Antonio, TX
Música, por un tiempo (2008) was commissioned by the San Antonio-based SOLI Chamber Ensemble for their core instrumentation of clarinet, violin, cello and piano. SOLI gave the premiere performances on March 16 and 17, 2009. Like its earlier companion piece, Les Niais Amoureux (1989), for the same instrumentation, Música, por un tiempo combines two widely divergent musical entities. Here, the ground bass from the song "Music, for a while," by the 17th-Century English composer Henry Purcell, meets the traditional Latin dance rhythm of the rumba hence the translation of Purcell’s English title into Spanish.
I included the word "time/tiempo" in the title in homage to Olivier Messiaen’s monumental Quartet for the End of Time (1941), for the same combination of instruments. While Messiaen’s quartet evokes a transcendent, eternal state, when "…there shall be time no longer," (Revelation 10:6), my work, following Dryden’s text for Purcell’s song, instead celebrates individual moments of our fleeting, Earthly time, as those moments are intensified through music:
Music, for a while doth all our cares beguile,
Wond’ring how your pains were eased and disdaining to be pleased…
There are three movements fast, slow, fast in cyclical form, with thematic material carried forward, with variations from one movement to the next. The first movement, Andantino amoroso, is based on a single melodic/harmonic sequence derived from the first measure of the Purcell. The six sections gradually rise in pitch, each one a minor third higher, with hints of the rumba rhythm emerging, from time to time, in the accompaniment. The second movement, Adagio espressivo, is highly contrapuntal, with the short motives of the first movement now extended to create long lyrical lines, often in canon. At the end of the movement, Purcell’s bass line appears, in the piano, for the first time in its entirety, disguised by trills in the strings and a counter melody in the clarinet. The finale, Vivace alla rumba, brings the first movement’s rumba hints out into the open, using many of the same themes, but now in a more rhythmic dance-like setting, with each section again rising a minor third higher than the last. The Purcell theme returns in its complete form twice more in this movement, each time as a kind of "time-out" interlude, in which Purcell’s six-bar phrase, here extended to twelve bars, provides contrast to the driving four-bar rumba phrases. In the coda, the long lines of the second movement return, with their polyphonic richness, superimposed over the rumba rhythm, as all of the principle themes return for curtain calls before a final flourish.