Instrumentation: Violin and Piano
Commissioned by The Eckhardt-Grammatté National Music Competition with support from the Canada Council
Premiere: The Eckhardt-Grammatté National Music Competition, May, 2009
Once they’ve reached a certain level of proficiency, all string players are faced with their annual trek through the solo music of Bach. The Sonatas, Partitas and Suites are an essential part of that march towards mastery of your instrument. Bach was able to come up with an amazing collection of challenges that constitute an unmatched yardstick for string players. Since I have both a violinist and a cellist in my house (my children Gillian and Ariel), I’ve now lived through the daily grind, hearing these pieces come to life note by note.
Bach’s use of repetitive harmonic sequences is masterful and it gives the music a forward momentum that I’ve come to admire. It’s a very different approach to the longer Neo-Romantic structures that have been the stock-in-trade for most of my music. In the last few years though, I’ve started to explore this type of repetition – which doesn’t include a lot of modulation to new key areas – because it gives the music a lot of power. That drive towards the end of a phrase becomes so relentless, that you can really feel the notes march towards their resolution.
The Chaconne form is best known from the big bear of a movement that closes out Bach’s Partita #2. It’s a huge set of variations that challenges the performer with every phrase. My little Chaconne isn’t on that scale, but hopefully it’ll have some of the energy and a few of the challenges, in a musical language that speaks from our time.