Commissioned by the Verdehr Trio with funds from Michigan State University

  • 17 min

Programme Note

A chance rediscovery of Debussy’s La Séréande Interrompue was the starting point for this work… and an obvious association of ideas led easily to thoughts of Pierrot. A fortuitous coincidence, since the characters in the story are three and this work was to be a trio!

The form of the work follows the story quite closely and there are thus eight short sections.

I Pierrot: Andante espressivo
(Pierrot, alone on stage, is sad and introspective.)

II Columbine: Con frivolezza
(Columbine, frivolous and superficial, enters. Pierrot starts to make a passionate declaration of love to her/she consents to listen.)

III Pierrot’s Serenade: Spettrale
(In the moonlight, Pierrot serenades Columbine. The piano imitates the strumming of Pierrot’s guitar.)

IV Harlequin: Con energia
(Harlequin enters with his usual overwhelming energy and self-absorption. Pierrot and Columbine conceal themselves and at first Harlequin does not notice them.)

V Harlequin attacks Pierrot: Furioso
(Harlequin furiously attacks Pierrot, who confronts harlequin with all his strength. But Pierrot is no match for him.)

VI Columbine rejects Pierrot: Molto meno mosso
(Pierrot turns to Columbine, she now cruelly rejects him and gives her attention to Harlequin).

VII Harlequin’s Serenade: Sensuale
(Harlequin successfully courts Columbine despite Pierrot’s protestations.)

VIII Pierrot: Andante espressivo
(As at the beginning Pierrot is alone, but now in even greater despair.)

There are several musical links with the Debussy prelude. As in the Debussy the two serenades are in keys a major third apart (here A minor and D flat major: in the Debussy, B flat minor and D major). However in Pierrot both serenades are interrupted. Harlequin successfully interrupts Pierrot’s serenade, and later Pierrot tries unsuccessfully to interrupt Harlequin’s. Two other short motifs from the Debussy prelude can easily be discovered!

Throughout, the violin represents Pierrot, the clarinet columbine and the piano harlequin, though the instruments do also have some accompanimental function.

Thea Musgrave


Musgrave: Pierrot: I. Pierrot
Musgrave: Pierrot: II. Columbine
Musgrave: Pierrot III. Pierrot's Serenade
Musgrave: Pierrot: IV. Harlequin
Musgrave: Pierrot: V. Harlequin Attacks Pierrot
Musgrave: Pierrot: VI. Columbine rejects Pierrot
Musgrave: Pierrot: VII. Harlequin's Serenade
Musgrave: Pierrot: VIII. Pierrot