This new flute concerto was written especially for Marina Piccinini and inspired by the beauty and elegance of her playing.
I consider that the work is in two halves - one dark and the other light. The darker includes the two longer movements I. Portrait and III. Pavan — and the lighter and shorter II. Pastorale-Barcarolle and IV. TaranTulla.
The movements are very connected to each other musically, and share ideas between them that keeps the musical thread continuous, even with the varied feel of each movement. Some elements the movements have in common (with the possible exception of the last) is that each begins with calmly and wind up spiraling out of control in some way. Three of the movements are based around dance rhythms from centuries long past. Pastorale is a gentle dance of the land and field, Barcarolle evokes the undulating music of a gondola traveling on water, Pavan is a slow, dignified dance in double time (though I have set it in triple!), and a Tarantella is a continuously fast dance in 6/8 that often accelerates. "Tarantism, as a ritual, has roots in the ancient Greek myths. Reportedly, victims who had collapsed or were convulsing would begin to dance with appropriate music and be revived as if a tarantula had bitten them."
I. Portrait travels through many moods and characters. Is it a portrait of the flute or flautist? or of the composer?
II. Pastorale-Barcarole begins as a gentle Italianate dance then repeatedly shifts to faster, more energetic and virtuosic music. Mandolin-like strains are heard.....
III. Pavan starts as a gentle, expressive line traded between flute and oboe, then gradually is intercut with fast outbursts that turn into music of a Bacchic near-frenzy before returning to its opening.
IV. Finally, TaranTulla is a virtuoso romp, influenced by the flutist-leader Ian Anderson's classic rock group, Jethro Tull (but more out of the blues-side of their music, less out of the rock...)
The work is dedicated to Marina Piccinini with warmth and admiration.
-Aaron Jay Kernis