• John McCabe
  • Fauvel's Rondeaux (1996)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Vedehr Trio and Michigan State University

  • cl/pf/vn
  • 18 min

Programme Note

Fauvel's Rondeaux for clarinet, violin and piano (which also exists in a version for Clarinet doubling Bass Clarinet) is in the form of a gigantic rondo, in which the opening music acts as the ritornello material, and the episodes which constitute the main part of the work, instead of being contrasts with the main idea (as in the classical rondo), form the substance of the music. To some extent, the trio is a satellite work of my ballet Edward II (1994/5) first performed by the Stuttgart Ballet in 1995. In the ballet, which was choreographed by David Bintley, a kind of commentary, sometimes ironic, sometimes savagely direct, is provided by occasional appearances of a troupe of entertainers (jugglers, acrobats, clowns and musicians) led by Fauvel.

The origin of this idea lies in the medieval Roman de Fauvel, in which a donkey (Fauvel) becomes Lord of the World, a kind of Lord of Misrule - the political and religious satire, often scurrilous and crude, allowed an expressive extension of the world of the English and French courts in the ballet, and directly related to Edward's tragic fate in that his assassin enters as Fauvel, with an ass's head, and reveals himself as Lightborn, the murderer, only after a short while. In the trio, various sections from the ballet are drawn upon, including some crudely playful dances performed by the troupe of wandering players - the final, intensely chromatic section is taken from the evil Pas de deux performed by leading conspirators against Edward, his wife (now his widow), Isabella and her corrupt lover, Mortimer.

The contrast between the playful nature of the court entertainment and the gradually darkening world of conspiracy, lust and power-mania, which slowly develops during the ballet, is the kind of changing character that has long fascinated me and it was this that I wanted to explore further in this trio. There are, of course, substantial sections which are different from anything in the ballet, but much of the material of these is derived (respectively, as it were) from the music of the final pas de deux. The work is dedicated to the Verdehr Trio and lasts about 18 minutes.

© 1996 John McCabe