(Reminiscences on the Name of Bach, First Reading)

For viola and cello
Duration: ca 1 minute

 

This piece belongs to those compositions by Staar in which he occupied himself with microtonality. The other compositions are the Inventions op. 22h No. 1 for violin and cello, the ViolinMicroMix op. 26 I ter for violin ensemble (7-12 violins) and the Descendances imaginaires op. 22f for 2 string orchestras.

Staar conceived of the idea of using the B-A-C-H motive while he was working on the Descendances imaginaires. This composition was the attempt to further reduce this chromatic motive into the intervallic space of a quarter-tone.

Two pieces finally emerged, two »readings« (or interpretations), as it were, of the same idea: the aforementioned piece for chamber ensemble and the third movement of the Descendences. In both instances, the famous motive was presented in three different dimensions: in its original semitonal configuration, in a (doubled) whole-tone version, and a (halved) quarter-tone version.

While the quarter-tone configuration is the result of the quarter-tone tuning used by one of the two string orchestras, the micro-intervals of the first Reading of B-A-C-H arise out of a combination of scordatura and regular tunings for the strings: the two upper strings of the violas are raised by a quarter tone, while the two lower strings of the cellos are lowered by a quarter tone.

In a piece that lasts less than a minute, the sophisticated interplay between the various tunings unfolds through a wide range of constantly transformed appearances of the main motive, which finally merge into a type of arpeggiated chorale.