Berceuse (quartets: clarinet, piano, viola, cello)
by Becky Llewellyn (1989)
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The idea of Berceuse, or 'lullaby' in French came to me when my grandson Jack was born. I remembered the times when I watched the moon set over the sea when breastfeeding my own children. The feeling of this act of intimacy, mother and child, moon and waves, water and milk, seemed a slice of eternity that seared into me.
In trying to compose the essence of this experience, I sought music that ceaselessly rocked back and forth as in a lullaby, but not regularly. It is set in small units of 3/8, then 4/8 time signatures as a way of pulling the ear to the next wave. As the work moves through a cycle of fifths, the four players share melodies and harmonies, including sustained falling seconds. The simplicity of the materials provides scope for each of the musicians to play with their voice rising and falling, as if they were waves of the sea sparkling with moonlight on their crest.
This piece has been performed more than any of my work and contains my favourite instruments. It has been said of the piece, "It makes me homesick for somewhere I've never been."
Originally written for Bb clarinet, violin, cello and piano, Becky rearranged this beautiful piece for string quartet in 2009. As a violin and cello player herself, she is drawn to the magic quality of string ensembles. With the continual changes of tempo, this work would challenge capable secondary school and university quartets, allowing players to work on ensemble and listening as colleagues bring out their singing line.
Instrumentation: Bb clarinet, violin or viola, cello, piano.
Duration: 6 min.
First performance: by Lights New Music Ensemble — 20 Jul 90. Little Theatre, Adelaide University
Performances of this work
12 May 2018: at Sirius Chamber Ensemble: Songs my Mother Taught Me (Christ Church, Lavender Bay). Featuring Sirius Chamber Ensemble.
22 Aug 99: Pilgrim Church, Flinders St, Adelaide "From the Angels" concert. Featuring Cameo Trio.
20 Jul 90: Little Theatre, Adelaide University. Featuring Lights New Music Ensemble.
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