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Quatrain for Violins and Orchestra, by David Dzubay
(1993, rev. 1994)

Duration: 18 minutes

Instrumentation: 2(2+pic).2.2.2/2221/timp.2perc.hp.pno/strings

Program Note:

Quatrain features the violin section of the orchestra, which is divided into four parts. Actually, many aspects of the composition relate to the number 4. The work divides into four sections, each about four minutes long and at its own tempo (80, 120, 60, 160). There are references to four other compositions: two violin concertos, a school fight song, and an occasional song. (I won't give these away now)

There is a long history of composers writing music containing codes, puzzles, or relationships which are not always immediately perceivable. It seems most tempting to use techniques of musical inscription in dedicatory compositions. If you would rather not read about any such puzzles or surprises in Quatrain before the performance, please stop here. The musical inscription in this work is a long one, as you can see (the capital letters map to the pitches they name, sometimes using solfege syllables): to joSEF GinGoLD on tHE oCCASion oF yoUR EiGHty FiFtH BiRtHDAy AnD in CELEBRAtion oF yoUR yEARS tEACHinG At inDiAnA UnivERSity. Since I tend not to write in C major, sharps or flats were added to some of the pitch names to come up with a string of 56 pitch classes that sounded good to me. As an example, the seven pitch classes representing "Josef Gingold" at the beginning of the string are: G-E-F-Gb-G#-A-D. There are seven nearly complete statements of this inscription, and numerous fragments throughout the work. A second possible representation of "Josef Gingold" is also used frequently: Bb-E-F-G-Gb-Ab-D.

Oh, okay - I'll tell. The first violin concerto referenced is the Berg, from which I have borrowed his 12 note row and used it as a chord, principally in the first section of the work. The second section, a perpetual motion, quotes the IU fight song, which is almost always present in the accompaniment, though barely recognizable. Perhaps the most obvious quote is of the cadence from the cadenza of the Mendelssohn violin concerto, which is used at the end of the third section. The fourth quote is the central quatrain of the composition - Happy Birthday (to Josef Gingold and to Indiana University), of which each of four phrases are contained in the corresponding four sections.

Quotes and inscriptions make for easy program notes, but I have to say that they are a small part of Quatrain, though the plan for how and when to use them did help in making decisions about form and structure. Most of the music in the composition is developed from melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic material in the first four measures, which contains no quotation. (David Dzubay)

Commissioned jointly by the Camerata Chamber Orchestra, the Indiana Arts Commission and Indiana University for the 175th anniversary of its founding, and the occasion of the Camerata Commemoration Concert honoring Josef Gingold, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Music, in his 85th year for his extraordinary contributions to the world of music.

Premiere: Camerata Chamber Orchestra, Keith Brown

Last updated: 03-Jun-2007
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