Arias and Dances (for flute, oboe, cello and harpsichord)
I.Ayre (Da Capo Aria)
Arias and Dances (for flute, oboe, cello and harpsichord) was the result of a 2007 commission from Aliénor (Elaine Funaro, Executive Director) for the 2008 international conference in Winston-Salem (in conjunction with the Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society [SEHKS]). Though the World Premiere performance featured early instruments (i.e. baroque flute, oboe and cello), the second performance (on 4 May 2008 by the Mallarmé Chamber Players in Durham, North Carolina) will feature these instrument’s modern counterparts. Arias and Dances was composed during the summer of 2007 and completed on 17 September 2007. In four movements, Arias and Dances is approximately sixteen minutes in length.
I. Ayre (Da Capo Aria). Like the traditional da capo aria, this movement is in ABA form. The “A” section’s tempo is marked : Unhurried, fresh and singing and its Mixolydian mode, legato character contrasts with the more playful and pluckish Aeolian mode-based “B” section. In the spirit of the baroque, where the performer(s) on the repeat of the “A” section in a da capo aria would have been expected to ornament, so here, too, all three performers are encouraged to improvise tasteful ornamentation upon the return of the “A” section.
II. Stomp (Estampie). In addition to owing its existence to the ground bass, this movement is inspired by the 13th and 14th century dance, the estampie. In one definition, the New Grove’s Dictionary defines estampie as a “stamping dance” and that definition seems quite appropriate to Stomp. What defines the form of the estampie are sections (usually four to seven) called punctus that are repeated. Stomp consists of eight sections (i.e. punctus) with the eighth section being a varied repeat of the first. Each larger section of eight measures is divided into four measures, which are repeated (i.e. A = a, a, b, b; B = c, c, d, d; etc.). In all cases the second smaller sections represent the same rhythms as their companion first sections, but all pitches are exact retrogrades (i.e. backwards) of the first sections. The listener need not even get caught up in these formal observations but, instead, simply enjoy the stomping energy of this Dorian mode-based movement!
III. Hymn (Strophic). A hymn is the most commonly known “strophic” composition (i.e. the same music for different stanzas). A strophic aria, then, is an aria where the music remains the same even though the words (i.e. stanzas) do not. Having no text (or singer) here makes a true strophic aria impossible, but the repetition (though with variants) of the primary musical material brings about continuity with the strophic concept. The three sections (i.e. “stanzas”) that make up the larger outer form of Hymn are marked by their instrumentation: the first section (“stanza”) is for flute and harpsichord; the second section (“stanza”) is a duo for oboe and cello; and the third section (“stanza”) brings all the instruments together. The inner form of the piece consists of variants of the same four-measure, hymn-like idea. Set in the Phrygian mode, this movement is characterized by its peaceful mood and gentle lyricism.
IV. Dance (Reel). Set in the Mixolydian mode, this spirited movement (marked “Reely fast”) is based on a Scottish reel published in 18th century Edinburgh known as Bernard’s Reel. As in movement I, and like so many baroque dances, it is in two primary sections. Near the end of the piece, the performers are invited to embellish their lines in the spirit of the baroque, even as the tempo and energy of the piece increases.