Rainforest I was commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, New York, and the title refers specifically to the subtropical rainforest of Southern Queensland, in Australia, and, by implication, to the startling contrast between this kind of topography compared to the almost Scottish-glen-like scenery to be found in the heights of the Great Dividing Range or the very different bush country encountered to the west.
The work is laid out for three small groups, a String Quartet, a Piano Trio, and an ensemble of Flute, Clarinet and Glockenspiel, which sometimes work together as one large group but more often divide into separate ensembles with their own characteristic thematic material. The piece is played without a break, but falls into three main sections, the first and third being slow.
The central part is a kind of Scherzo with two Trios, the first of which alternates between two tempi (Moderato and Andante), the second Trio being based on a perpetually revolving series of dance-like rhythmic figures in the Piano Trio group. At the beginning of the work, the main chord of the whole piece is gradually assembled downwards during the first few minutes, a process mirrored (and varied) at the close by rising scale figures on the strings. Rainforest I ends, as it began, with single repeated Glockenspiel notes.
The dedication is "To Charles Wadsworth and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center".
© 1989 John McCabe