Vignettes

Premiere: 21 March 2010 at Boston University, Boston, MA. Young Kim, horn; Ashlyn Olson, violin; Julia Scott Carey, piano

Duration: ca. 16′

Instrumentation: horn, violin, and piano (also version for violin, cello, and piano)

Score: View score

Performance Note: As a composer, I have always been partial to the horn. More than any other instrument, it tends to work its way into my scores, even when my initial ideas on the instrumentation of a piece might suggest it would not be welcome (the scoring of my chamber piece …einfach/schwer…? being an excellent case in point). I wrote Vignettes at the end of the very busy and memorable year 2008. The initial impetus behind it was my first hearing that summer of the horn trios of Gyorgy Ligeti and Johannes Brahms, though much to my delight a number of additional musical influences also managed to find their way into the score.

The first movement of Vignettes commences with a duet between violin and horn that is gradually accompanied by the piano. A gently flowing section leads to the climax of this short movement, a passage evocative of pealing bells (which is a musical image that I explored extensively in my Wedding Preludes, also written in 2008), before the music dissipates into the ether.

The second movement is a wild, off-balance scherzo, filled with shifting accents and devilishly tricky rhythmic twists.

Sometime in 2007 or 2008 I first heard Benjamin Britten’s opera Gloriana, and it is to that opus that the third movement of Vignettes, called “Galliard Inventions,” refers. The “Inventions” are a set of four variations on a Renaissance-ish tune that culminate in a heavily syncopated section in which I come as close as I dare to the exuberant syncopations of some late-Ligeti (particularly his horn trio).

The finale (which has no title) begins as a series of recitatives between the solo horn and the violin/piano, recounting melodic and motivic material from the previous movements. Eventually the complete ensemble takes up the “gently flowing” material of the first movement, now greatly expanded, which leads into the dramatic climax of this final section, and the end of the piece.

Vignettes was first performed complete on 21 March 2010 in the Marshall Room at the College of Fine Arts at Boston University by Young Kim, horn; Ashlyn Olson, violin; and Julia Scott Carey, piano.