• fl, cl, perc, pf, vn, vc
  • 16 min

Programme Note

Movement Titles:
I. A Mellow Cello
II. Valse Noble
III. Frolicking Fiddle
IV. With Mallets Aforethought
V. Darkly Somber
VI. Piccsyish
VII. Romanza Pastorale
VIII. Eine Kleine Ragtimemusik
IX. The Battle, Coda, The Resolution

Bouquet for Collage was commissioned in 1988 by the Boston-based new music group called Collage, made up of members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. As they are remarkable virtuoso instrumentalists, and since I was asked to write a piece for their core instrumentation—flute doubling on piccolo, clarinet doubling on bass clarinet, violin, cello, percussion, and piano—I originally decided to compose the work in eight movements, each of them featuring in a primary soloistic role one of the eight instruments at hand, all encompassed by an opening Introduction and a closing Coda. But since percussionist Frank Epstein was the founder and long-time titular leader of Collage, I decided to give him two movements, making eleven altogether. Thus, in effect, Bouquet is a kind of mini concerto for chamber ensemble.
The nine inner movements all have titles, which give a clear sense of their content and character. The brief Introduction, starting vigorously enough but soon relaxing in dynamic and rhythmic intensity, leads smoothly to movement I. Entitled A Mellow Cello, it is a lyric piece in a moderate tempo, featuring the tenor/baritone of the string family eloquently singing. The following ‘dancing’ Valse Noble in 6/8 is given to the flute. Another Waltz follows, this one in three-quarter time, perky and bright-colored, showing off the violin in its most glittering, virtuosic manner. The next movement features the mallet instruments of the percussion family, in succession (marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel), the music gradually rising in range and register—its title: With Mallets Aforethought. The deep sounds of the bass clarinet dominate movement VI, sparsely accompanied by alto flute, soft-dark strings, and quiet percussion interjections. Four and five octaves higher, a piccolo now scampers about in a ‘Piccsyish’ fashion, stumbling now and then, but ultimately happy to get safely—and brilliantly—to the finish line.
The ensuing Romanza-Barcarolle features the clarinet in a romantic mood, in (mostly) undulating flowing triplets. The piano, almost inevitably, plays Eine Kleine Ragtimemusik, a mini piano concerto with a grandly ‘crazy’ cadenza at midpoint. The Battle, the interpolated "extra” movement, now pits the non-mallet percussion instruments—various drums, cymbals, and gongs—against a gruff, rough trio of piano, bass clarinet, and cello—with the percussionist the ultimate victor. Finally, the Coda recapitulates the Introduction, except in precise reverse order, like a film running backwards. But in music, occurring as it does in time, nothing can really be reversed. It can be ‘retrograted’, but ultimately it can only move forward. And so it does, coming to a splashy climax, the same boisterous music with which the work began.

— Gunther Schuller