Yearning after the unattainable soulmate,
the paradox of perfect love--unrealized except as a frozen moment in
inexorable progress of change (as reflected in the transitory nature of
romantic striving) were all much on my mind as I composed
Ballade for cello and piano.
Cast in a single movement, the work is rhapsodic in character, and compresses a contrasting multi-movement scheme into a single movement fantasy. The serenely peaceful opening is meant to capture the spirit of the Alba, a medieval genre of poetry that revolves around the idea of lovers parting at dawn, the most famous example by a later writer being that of the dawn scene (“It is the lark”, etc.) in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Quasi bird song writing iand resonant chords in the piano join the yearning solo cello line, which builds to an impassioned outburst. The fantasy flows into a scherzo-like section filled with colorful scurrying pizzicati notes, jeté glissandi, and muted notes in the piano. The scherzo mood opens out into a return of the opening material, now even more anguished and haunting, which builds to a high point in both range and tension. The mood then turns darker, perhaps more cynical, as a demonic dance rhythm takes over and pushes ahead full steam into a virtuoso cadenza for the cello. The macabre dance rhythms survive the cadenza, and emerge in the piano, joined by cello accompaniment to make up the coda which ends the piece.
Dedicated to and written for Cellist Jan Pfeiffer, Ballade, was composed in 1987 and premiered by Ms. Pfeiffer that same year.
Selected performances of Ballade:
Premiere: April 24, 1987, Jan Pfeiffer, ‘cellist, with Andrew Bonner, pianist, Belmont Music School, Belmont, MA.
March 10, 1992, Jan Pfeiffer, ‘cellist, with Timothy Steele, pianist, Music at Holy Cross, Boston
May 30, 1992, Jan Pfeiffer, ‘cellist, with Timothy Steele, pianist, University of Missouri, Kansas City
November 1, 1995, Jan Pfeiffer, ‘cellist, with Timothy Steele, pianist, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA.
November 5, 1995, Jan Pfeiffer, ‘cellist, with Timothy Steele, pianist, F&M Sound Horizons Series, Lancaster, PA.