Publisher: Novello & Co
Chamber Music I (1975)
commissioned by the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra
Novello & Co Ltd
Sallinen wrote Chamber Music I in 1975, soon after completing his Third Symphony. The tonal framework of this 12-minute piece for string orchestra is deliberately indeterminate: a steady ripple of unfocused sound, string sections divided into many parts, and the interrelation of small interval shifts being slotten in to one another with meticulous care. Emerging from this wash of sound is a five note thematic cell, rising then falling, out of which grows a melodic phrase. A second motive makes its appearance; the dream-like tempo speeds up; and the pattern of the piece now receives a new dimension by the prominence given to a succession of falling seconds.
A dramatic element becomes manifest at the work's pivotal point. There has been a move towards the crystallization of a tonal centre, where the repeated dropping interval of a third, so simple in its effect, plays a crucial role. Then the tension gradually lessens. A group of trickling, drooping scales from solo instruments pays a passing tribute to an aspect of Schoeberg's Verklaerte Nacht. The crystallized focal point is reached once again and, as the piece moves to it's conclusion, the five note cell which made its presence felt earlier is transformed into a 'motto' comprising four notes, recalling - whether consciously or not, only the composer knows - Richard Strauss' dying Don Quixote.
© Ronald Weitzman
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