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For Theodora : string quartet

by Elena Kats-Chernin (2022)

For Theodora


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Work Overview

Receiving a commission of such a personal nature is a huge honour but it is also a big responsibility. This piece is a tribute to the commissioner's beloved and complex family. It was very helpful to have the structure and instrumentation gifted to me by Katrina, leaving a lot of space for the actual creation. The folk song that her grandmother used to sing became the basis for the whole suite and is woven into the tapestry of all the movements.

For Theodora is in four distinctive movements.

Chrysanthe 1 is named after Katrina's grandmother. I wanted to highlight the uplifting and cheerful nature of the original folk song in a "happy" key of G major and I employed the unusual metre of 7/8 of the original. I attempted to create a carefree atmosphere and to keep the feeling of lightness throughout this first movement.

Theodora is named after Katrina's mother. This movement starts with the shifting chords tremoli in G minor. The folk song enters in violin solo, in tribute to Theodora who used to play violin. The material gets darker and darker and yet finishes in a calmer and more content place than when it started. The main melody returns towards the end of this movement and ends on a hopeful chord of C major.

Katerina is named after the commissioner. My starting point was number 4 as in 4 characters of this whole piece. They are built in pairs, two intervals in a succession, each two bars. B flat and C, then A and D. Then it does same a step down and so on. Then, the pulse starts, like a beating heart, this piece is the most personal of all the movements, as it represents the soul of the whole project. I compare writing this movement to painting a portrait. Responding to the person on the other line of the phone, their inner feelings and also respond to the sound of their voice, to what is being said, to how it is being said and then also create a work that feels like it is connecting to the portrait's subject. Some of this movement is reflective, but with an underlying urgency. Some of it is dramatic in a later part and it leads to the folk song in almost a chorale-like texture.

Chrysanthe 2 is named after Katrina's daughter. I wanted to create a dance-like energetic and vibrant piece full of syncopated rhythms and with a carefree manner corresponding to movement 1. The piece ends with a quote of the folk song with a kind of a symbolic melodic wave from Chrysanthe 2 back to her grandmother Chrysanthe 1.

Work Details

Year: 2022

Instrumentation: 2 Violins, viola, cello.

Duration: 20 min.

Performances of this work

13 Sep 2022: at Orava Quartet: Mad Piper (Melbourne Recital Centre, Elisabeth Murdoch Hall). Featuring Orava Quartet.

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