NOCTURN No.1, op.8a: composed for violoncello and piano (1996).
Duration: 6 minutes.
Composition commissioned by: James Ellis.
James Ellis, violoncello; Katerina Stamatelos, piano.
Composers’ Workshop Concert, Clapp Recital Hall, The University of Iowa School of Music, Iowa City, IA, November 24, 1996.
"During the early centuries of Christianity, its adherents were often forced to hold night assemblies, or Vigils-Vigil services consist primarily of prayers, scripture readings, and singing of psalms. The central portion of the Vigil, celebrated in the last hours of the night, was later called Nocturn." (Richard H Hoppin, Medieval Music).
My violoncello-piano Nocturn No.1 is the "Vigil" of a Twentieth-century Christian: prayer and nightmare.
Music: Katerina Stamatelos "Album No.1"
If you are unfamiliar with the work of Stamatelos the Nocturns are a wonderful introduction to her work. Let me offer a brief description of Nocturn No.1.
The piece is an A B A’ form for cello and piano. It opens with solo cello weaving a long, languorous low register line which swells from pp to an anticlimactic pause at mf. To some degree the writing is reminiscent of Messiaen yet more subdued and less impressionistic. Enter piano in gentle harmonies around a steady axis pedal point in a neutral rhythmic setting. It will be accompanied by cello in a tremolo sul ponticello gesture in blatant disregard of its earlier melodic role. However, our composer is wise and realizes that history will not be so easily negated. In a fitting move the cello is returned to its station yet is not made to do so gently. The struggle that began so inconspicuously at the beginning of the movement is now clearly made manifest in the strained tones of the high register A string.
The forces of conciliation and rejection that had previously been distinct are now made to collide in the movements B section. There is no longer a clear separation of melody and accompaniment. Each character struggles and is by turn a variable amalgam of aggressor and subdued. Gestures are recalled, transformed but never negated. Stamatelos understands full well that she must honor the integrity of each if the struggle is to have meaning.
The closing section of the work is a returning in appropriately Nietzschean fashion. Origins are briefly recalled but never literally, avoiding any sense of nostalgia. It is a quiet affirmation of the necessity of struggle for the realization of the work of art.
A wonderful work!
(Edited by fpc4 on 6 Oct 2009, 14:47)
The recording of Nocturn No.1 was done during the live performance of the work at its world premiere, as stated above.
The Nightmares posters series was inspired by my composition Two Nocturns for violoncello and piano as well as by my gouache painting series The Lovers.
Through photographing certain details of the paintings, I realized that I had uncovered something new: hidden fears and nightmares, deeply buried into the subconscious mind. Fears that might get alive during our sleep or during phases of a relationship when anguish reigns.