Jeu d’esprit is a highly virtuosic three-minute fanfare whim, which connects, combines, and transforms majestic motives with ornamental materials (which are almost Baroque-like in their arabesques and trills). Given that there are only two instruments, and they can each only play one note at a time, I worked hard to give the illusion that this fanfare is about harmony. This, despite that we never hear more than two notes played together. It is at times fiery, at times fluid, and generally ablaze with energy.
The work was made as a gift to the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra who asked for a fanfare for their spring 2010 gala fundraiser.
The music is dedicated to Connie Steensma and Lizabeth Newman for their leadership, passion, and generosity.
Although my music is highly notated, precise, carefully structured, thoughtfully proportioned, and so forth…and although you may have several musicians elegantly working together, from the very specific text, I like my music to have the feeling that it is organically being self-propelled — on the spot. As if we listeners, the audience, are overhearing a captured improvisation.
I like my music to be played so that the “inner-life” of the different rhythmic syntaxes is specific, with characterized phrasing of the colors and harmonies, etc. &emdash; keeping it ultra alive — such that it always sounds spontaneous.
For their sublime, precision and technical mastery, I deeply thank these players who today are playing my notations in this way.
A version of this work, which is entitled Top-Notch and which is notated one octave higher can be performed by: two piccolos (or alternatively by two flutes, but only if two piccolos are not available; the extreme piercing and intense quality of the piccolos’ register is the composer’s preference.) This piccolo version is dedicated to Andreas Waldburg-Wolfegg.
— Augusta Read Thomas