two interrelated cycles of ultra-short miniatures

 

A            for violin and piano left hand

B            für piano three hands (piano two hands and piano left hand on the same instrument)

 

Both cycles develop a wealth of singular ideas presented in a striking fashion. At the same time, they serve as a field for experimentation in simulating beginnings of compositions – a kind of preliminary exercise, as it were (I have written an essay discussing how to arrive at the first idea, in other words the beginning of a composition).

The »Pensées« owe their inspiration to the Finnish-Japanese pianist Izumi Tateno, who wanted me to write a work for violin and piano left hand for his collection of left-hand repertory. I recalled my Ständchen und Sitzchen für Ernst Krenek op. 14/1, which I had played myself on violin and piano, and I conceived two series of 24 short pieces each, both of which use the same harmonic material. The process by which this material is used is similar to what happens in the Doubles of dance movements in the partitas of Johann Sebastian Bach.

The range of expression in these ultra-short pieces extends from a lyrical Andante all the way to a mechanical rhythmic profile, and from dance-like, even jazzy aphorisms, or searching, floating measures, all the way to desolate, formally softened characters. It should be stressed, however, that each miniature contains only one character. Despite the brevity, there is an occasional development, and even transformations of individual characters: this is especially evident in V A, where a transformation from searching to certainty takes place. For the most part, however, development is limited to either rhythmic concentration or dynamic contrasts. Rhythm is thus fully integrated within the processual identity of the pieces, and sometimes even becomes a formative component.

Cycle A contains pieces for violin and piano left hand. Cycle B contains pieces for »piano three hands,« in other words for a pianist playing with both hands and a pianist playing with the left hand only, and is conceived as a Double of Cycle A. The pace is determined by the demand of providing the greatest possible contrasts. Performance possibilities theoretically range from the performance of a single miniature to a complete performance of the entire set. However, a solitary performance of the shortest miniature, whose total duration is approximately three seconds (Nr. XVIIB), would be an absurd act.

I would suggest two options for partial performances. The first option is to divide the cycle in four parts, playing from A and B Nos. I–VI, VII–XII, XIII–XVIII or XIX–XXIV (each division lasting between 4 and 5 minutes in performance). The second option is to perform either Cycle A or Cycle B on their own, each of which takes approximately 8 to 10 minutes to perform.

Ideal of course is the interwoven performance of all 48 pieces from both cycles, with a duration of almost 20 minutes. However, since the dramaturgy requires breaks between the pieces, the total duration of a performance will be between 25 and 30 minutes. The realization of these breaks, which could become the most important component of a convincing interpretation, is left up to the performers, whose decision will be influenced by the character and the tempo of the individual pieces.

A-ZYKLUS 

    B-ZYKLUS      Gesamt
A I Vivace  13''      B I  Vivace misterioso  7''    20'' 
A II Tempo di Blues  20''   B II Elegiaco, ma assai ritmico 34''   54'' 
A III Vivace mecanico 26''   B III  Pensieroso  20''   46''
A IV Vivace agitato  10''   B IV  Allegretto  22''   32''
A V  Cercando  14''    B V  Molto vivace e agitato  7''    21'' 
A VI Andante con moto 25''   B VI  Sospeso  44''   1'09'' 
    1'48''       2'14''   4'02''
A VII  Prestissimo  9''   B VII  Quasi Blues 18''    27''
A VIII  Vivace giocoso  13''    B VIII Agitato molto 9''   22''
A IX Vivace agitato 45''   B IX Affettato  9''   54''
A X Allegretto 24''   B X  Grave  18''   42''
A XI Presto 6''   B XI  Vivacissimo agitato 12''   18''
A XII Largo 1'35''   B XII  Presto  10''   1'45''
    3'12''       1'16''   4'28''

 

A XIII Presto Vivacissimo 8''      B XIII   Vivace agitato 9''    17'' 
A XIV Andantino 28''   B XIV Adagio  1'26''   1'54''
A XV Con brio 24''   B XV  Alegretto comodo  25''   49''
A XVI Moderato 27''   B XVI Animato  13''   40''
A XVII  Mesto 37''    B XVII Prestissimo allegrissimo 4''    40'' 
A XVIII Adagio fuesto e irremovibile 33''   B XVIII Vivacissimo giocoso 9''   42'' 
    2'37''       2'25''   5'02''
A XIX Allegro bizarro 15''   B XIX  Andantino movendo 16''    31''
A XX  Andante mosso 39''    B XX Presto mecanico 31''   22''
A XXI Largo estatico e ardente 52''   B XXI Agitato drammatico 14''   1'06''
A XXII Maestoso e imposante 22''   B XXII  Curioso, misterioso   7''   29''
A XXIII Spaventoso 11''   B XXIII  Quasi Siciliano  14''   25''
A XXIV Quofou lent (dolcissimo) 20''   B XXIV  Largo generoso  1'56''   2'16''
    2'39''       3'18''   5'57''
                 
  A I-XXIV 10'16''     B I-XXIV 9'13''   19'29''