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Solitaire : thirteen pieces for solo viola

by Elliott Gyger (2021)

Work Overview

Solitaire is a deep dive into the sonic and expressive capabilities of one instrument in isolation, with only its own resources to draw upon. It was written under lockdown conditions, for a performer (the wonderful James Wannan) likewise cut off from the regular circuit of live performance and interaction by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While each of the thirteen movements establishes its own character and mood, the work is bound together by a tight external structure. Only three movements use all four strings of the viola; each string is heard on its own for one movement, and the remaining six explore the possibilities of different pairs of strings. Musical material, texture and colour is woven together following similar constraints: every movement combines four ideas, exactly one of which it has in common with each of the other movements. The result is an overall structure not unlike a set of variations, based on the constant recurrence and transformation of ideas.

Alongside the specific playing-card associations of the numbers 4 and 13, the work's title evokes the game-like complexity and pleasure of following a strict set of rules - in this case not controlling interaction with other players, but placing constraints only on oneself.

Work Details

Year: 2021

Instrumentation: Viola.

Duration: 32 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Contents note: I. Wayward -- II. Muscular -- III. Furtive -- IV. Solemn and enigmatic -- V. Gently rocking -- VI. Fiery -- VII. Darkly expressive -- VIII. Shimmering, volatile -- X. Raw -- XI. Graceful and tender -- XII. Lopsided, increasingly frantic -- XIII. In a whirl.

Written for: James Wannan

First performance: by James Wannan — 3 May 23. Canberra International Music Festival


Performances of this work

3 May 23: Canberra International Music Festival . Featuring James Wannan.

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