• John Harbison
  • The Violist's Notebook, Book II (2002)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • viola
  • 8 min

Programme Note

The name Bartolomeo Campagnoli is lost in the mists of history. I confess that I know nothing about him except that he wrote inventive, musical, satisfying viola etudes. In general, no pedagogical etudes need have any place in the education of a musician (I remember especially the miserable pedantry of the famous Kreutzer violin studies). But Campagnoli is recalled by a few violists as a good composer (probably a violist himself), a congenial spirit, a musician who encouraged us to expand our technique by dangling an elegantly musical carrot on a stick.

As I began keeping my violist's notebooks I thought of Campagnoli, his practical, modest, subversively challenging communications with his violist colleagues, then as now some of the best people in the world and hoped my messages would reach a few of them now and even in the future.

My brief etudes are more compositional than technical studies. Each is dedicated to a violist, mostly hard-core, but a few doublers are included.

Book I was assembled in the margins, over two years. Book II was written one a day, a self-assigned experiment.

The pieces can be performed in any sequence or grouping. In the case a conclave of violists were involved on some occasion I added the Cuccaracia and Fugue for four violists (or viola orchestra). It is begins with a species of viola joke, but continues, in thematically related short fugue, more serioso or perhaps more pomposo.

—John Harbison