La mer aux miroirs crevés : for nine players
by Elliott Gyger (1996)
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Library shelf no. 785.3419/GYG 1 [Available for loan]
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Prelude - Movement 1
Movement 2 - Postlude - Movement 3
This work was commenced during my residency in the Peggy Glanville-Hicks Composers' House, in the second half of 1996.
In some ways the piece might aptly be described as a 'chamber concerto', both because of the considerable degree of ensemble virtuosity it demands, and because of its focus on the contrast between soloistic and ripieno writing. In each of the three main (numbered) movements, three of the players are treated as a concertino group, and played off against the other six, although the exact nature of the interaction varies considerably. Movement 1 begins with an extended dialogue for oboe, cello and harp, in which the other instruments join only gradually. Movement 2 reverses this procedure, starting with a dry ensemble texture occasionally interrupted by more sustained gestures from piccolo, viola and piano, and culminating in a cadenza for the piano alone. In Movement 3 the concertino (bass clarinet, violin and percussion) starts as part of the tutti, later detaching itself to proceed as a separate layer, largely independent of the conductor.
Like much of my music, La mer aux miroirs crevés starts out with a fairly strict background structure, in this case deriving entirely from the grouping of the nine instruments into trios (not only by movement as outlined above, but also by timbre - piano+percussion+harp/three woodwind/three strings; register - high/middle/low; and spatially across the stage). However, as the work progresses, the structural control becomes looser, a tendency reflected as much in the music's surface character as in the details of its construction. For example, Movement 2 is much more anarchic and expressive than Movement 1, and the relaxed atmosphere of the Postlude is no more than a pale reflection of the convulsive urgency of the Prelude. The final movement brings a complete breakdown: the fairly precise symmetry of the work's first five sections is exploded, the music escapes from the tyranny of the barline, and the integrity of the ensemble itself is breached with the departure of one player from the stage.
The title - 'the sea of burst mirrors' - is taken from a poem by Paul Éluard, and did not arrive until after the composition process was complete. Hence it has no programmatic significance; rather, it reflects something of the turbulence and violence of much of the music, as well as the underlying process of disintegration.
Instrumentation: Piccolo (doubling flute), bass clarinet (doubling E flat clarinet), oboe (doubling oboe d'amore), piano, harp, percussion, violin, viola, cello.
Duration: 23 min.
Commission note: Composition made possible through the assistance of the Peggy Glanville-Hicks Composers' Trust
Performances of this work
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