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Missy Mazzoli

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Dissolve, O My Heart (2010)
G Schirmer Inc
Solo Works (excluding keyboard)
Year Composed
7 Minutes
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Programme Note
Missy Mazzoli Dissolve, O My Heart (2010)
Composer note:

Dissolve, O my Heart has its roots in a late-night conversation over Chinese food and cupcakes with violinist Jennifer Koh. She told me about her Bach & Beyond project, a program that combines Bach's Sonatas and Partitas with newly commissioned works, and asked if I would write a piece that referenced Bach's Partita in D Minor. This request was, to put it mildly, utterly terrifying; the last movement of the Partita, the Chaconne, is undoubtably the most famous piece of solo violin literature in the world. It overwhelmed Brahms, has been subject to hundreds of transcriptions and arrangements over the past two centuries, and is dizzying in its contrapuntal complexity. But something about Jennifer's enthusiasm was infectious, and I agreed to the project before I realized what I was getting myself into. Jennifer seemed to approach Bach through the lens of contemporary music, and I realized that this was what this new piece should do as well.

Dissolve, O my Heart begins with the first chord of Bach's Chaconne, a now-iconic d minor chord, and spins out from there into an off-kilter series of chords that doubles back on itself, collapses and ultimately dissolves in a torrent of fast passages. The only direct quote from the Partita is that first chord, which anchors the entire piece even as it threatens to spiral out of control. The title comes from an aria in the St. John's Passion, but has many potential interpretations.

Dissolve, O my Heart was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and was premiered in 2011 as part of their Green Umbrella Series in Disney Hall.

— Missy Mazzoli

Sample Pages

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  • Soloist(s)
    Jennifer Koh
    Cedille Records:
Mazzoli was the odd woman out at Green Umbrella, mainly because her work, Dissolve, O my Heart, was commissioned by the orchestra as a solo for Koh's “Bach and Beyond” project. In it the venturesome violinist combines Bach's solo partitas and sonatas with new works, and Mazzoli's daunting ghost was the D minor Chaconne. She began with Bach's chord, then went her own way in a beautifully structured score. Post-Minimalist repetition is an element of the current Brooklyn fashion sense, and Mazzoli liked to return, in this short piece, to elegantly simple phrases. But she decorated them with compelling complexity, alluring sliding tones and an exquisite flamboyance designed for Koh's virtuosity. The performance was exciting, with horsehair, shorn from the violin bow, fluttering in the wind.
Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times,25/05/2011
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