Crescents

for flute, string quartet, and piano, 1986 (rev. 1988), duration: 12 minutes.


            CRESCENTS, for flute, string quartet, and piano, was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Chamber Players and was composed during the winter of 1985-86.

            There are two associations to the title word, CRESCENTS, that capture some aspect of the piece.  Both are structural.  One is the general connotation of growth, from the Latin "crescere" which means to increase; the other is the specific association to the symmetrical crescent shape.

             The work is in one movement of approximately 11 minutes duration.  It is formally structured in three parts: A (slow) - B (fast) - A (slow).  Each of these sections has four subsections in which the basic musical ideas are presented and developed.  The specific relationships are shown in the following diagram:

 A    B    A

abcb dada bcdbda

 

             Three of the four motives are introduced in the first section of the piece.  Motive "a" is based on a pentatonic scale, with secondary emphasis on the tritone interval.  Motive "a" functions in various ways throughout the piece.  It is introductory, transitory, and conclusary.  In its initial presentation the material builds to the edge of a climax when suddenly the mood changes to slow and quiet and brings on motive "b".  Motive "b" is built along the line of a traditional song melody .  In its subsequent appearances motive "b" is substantially varied buts its character is always the same - slow and quiet.  Motive "b" is, in essence, the "tune" of CRESCENTS.  Motive "c" may be described as interlude material.  It is primarily harmonic in that, while the material is generated melodically, the effect is that of sonority.  It is built of stacked intervals of 5ths. 

            The contrapuntal middle section is faster and uses primarily motive "d".  Motive "d" is an angular melody which, in each of its appearances, is presented in canon with different tempi (defined by unique unit durations) in the individual voices.

            The third section is a quasi-retrograde version of the first but with interjections of motive "d".  The juxtaposition of motive "d" and motives "b" and "c" creates extreme contrast between tension and serenity.  This builds to the climax of the piece in which all but the viola are loud and at the extremes of their ranges.  The viola sustains a solitary pitch - A which serves as transtition back to the serenity of Motive "b".  After one more interjection of motive "d" the work closes with the presto introduction played in strict retrograde.


The Pennsylvania Chamber Players


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T   © Larry Nelson 2017