• John McCabe
  • Three Pieces (1964)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)
  • clpf
  • 10 min

Programme Note

Nocturne: Aria
Improvisation: Bossa Nova

These Three Pieces were first performed by Keith Puddy and Vivian Troon at the 1964 Cheltenham Festival. They are bound together by a twelve-tone row common to all the movements, although the overall flavour of the music is not particularly atonal (indeed, is rather tonal in feeling). The first two movements have titles which indicate something of the mood of the music, with sub-titles to show the technical background - thus, the first is a night-piece using an Aria-like texture, while the second, improvisatory in a jazz-like sense to some extent, uses the rhythm of the Bossa Nova, a Brazilian dance-form which was especially popular during the early 1960s.

The Nocturne opens with a relatively free section followed by the Aria, contrasting melodic phrases on the clarinet with irregular chordal patterns in the piano, leading to a climax and a final, dissolving melisma for the clarinet. The Improvisation is marked by some fairly complex rhythmic interplay between the instruments - it is mostly in 5/4 metre and is marked con moto.

The final Fantasy is more extended and in its sectional form (including a brief fugato) has something in common with classical fantasia form. It uses bravura technique from both players to generate propulsive energy and concludes with a flourish. In this movement particularly, there is an alternation between combining the two instruments in a co-operative fashion and separating them so that each has its own material, but at the close they are once more partners in a single chamber-music texture.

© 1989 John McCabe