Partita for Solo Violin

posted on March 24th 2014 in with 0 Comments

Instrumentation: violin

Duration: 7 minutes

Premiered by Robert Gupta on March 19, 2010

Commissioned by Robert Gupta

The real beginnings of this piece originate from my Cello Suite (2006) which I wrote when commissioned from my friend and cellist Jason Calloway. The piece was to be a short work, which would be premiered alongside nine other new works for solo cello. After only a few casual conversations with the performer, I somehow settled on using the Bach Cello Suites as my starting point. What better example of the ultimate solo piece. A piece where there’s no room for another voice. I was mostly fascinated by Bach’s use of illusion and tension-his ability to create harmonies with just a single line. He wrote pages of a fugue with the use of only a few notes on a monophonic instrument. Some say that his A minor fugue for violin is far more elaborate than most of his fugues from the 48 Preludes and Fugues of the Well-Tempered Klavier.

The compositional aesthetic of these pieces written almost 300 years ago still seems so modern today. I was excited about this whole concept and set out to express the entirety of a whole suite in less than 5 minutes. I also was going to somehow stay within Bach’s devices for harmonic development. But the tonal harmonies that Bach worked with would be far from my personal language of “harmony”. My harmonies would rely on the specific timbres of the instrument. Different colors, even noise, create reference points, transitions, modulations, and define the structures. With this piece, I never worked with the performer and at that time I remember feeling as if I was only working with Bach. Taking off where he left off 300 years ago.

Many years later after meeting and working with my LA Philharmonic colleague Robert Gupta, we decided to perform a recital together, initially influenced by my suite and more specifically Bach’s music and how it still transcends today. After Robert heard my cello suite, he suggested that I compose a new version for violin, something I had always wanted to do but could never imagine. Because my suite relies so much on the specifics of the cello and the timbres of each register, we really had a full-blown collaboration of ideas and experiments. This is usually something that manifests in the confines of my head, but in this case I was writing specifically for a friend and colleague, and re-adapting the piece specifically for the violin. Keep in mind my wife is also a violinist, but this piece took on a unique life of its own specific to Robert’s playing. The luxury of working this close with the performer is something very special, almost surreal. Robert’s influence and dedication to this piece was tireless and inspiring. This time the conversations were anything but casual and our collaboration was essential to the recreation of the piece. From the first meetings, to the final take in the recording session at Disney Hall, there was a tireless effort to capture something new, artistically valid and important. In the end the Partita for Solo Violin (2010) is a long way from my Suite for Cello (2006). It is it’s own piece unique to the violin and you could say, unique to Robert Gupta.