Saturday, September 29, 2007

Harlequin Sonata

In addition to "More Greek Myths," Susan Nigro commissioned me to write "something Italian" for contrabassoon and piano so I wrote this Italianate sonata for her. Sue and Mark Lindeblad played it on the same program as "More Greek Myths" in Chicago a few weeks ago, and a recording of it is on my American Music Center page.

Here's a lovely description of Harlequin from Jean-François Marmontel (1723-1799) as quoted by Maurice Sand in The History of the Harlequinade that I think applies to the contrabassoon as well.
His character presents a mixture of ignorance, naïveté, stupidity and grace. He is like a mere sketch of a man, a great child visited by flashes of reason and intelligence, in all of whose capers and awkwardnesses there is something sharp and interesting. The model Harlequin is all suppleness and agility, with the grace of a young cat, yet equipped with a superficial coarseness that renders his performances more amusing; the role is that of a lackey, patient, faithful, credulous, gluttonous, always in love, always in difficulties either on his master's account or on his own, afflicting himself and consoling himself again with the readiness of a child, one whose sorrows are as amusing as his joys.
For future performances of these pieces this fall, visit Susan Nigro's performance page on her website.

UPDATE: Here's a performance from April 1, 2021 by Trent Jacobs and pianist Nicholas Phillips

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