A lively and challenging piece for an unusual combination, well received on its inaugural tour for Chamber Music NZ.
Rites of Passage was commissioned by Chamber Music New Zealand and composed for Divertissiment, for their New Zealand tour in 2005. It is scored for bassoon, 2 violins, viola, cello and double bass, and is in one continuous movement.
Dedicated to Divertissiment: Preman Tilson (bassoon), Vesa-Matti Leppanen (violin). Rebecca Struthers (violin), Andrew Thomson (viola), Rowan Prior (cello), Dale Gold (double bass).
The piece is a relatively light-hearted reflection on the journey from birth through childhood to adolescence. It opens with birth-pains and a reference to Stravinsky's famous ballet, The Rite of Spring. This reference is a source of ideas for melodies and motifs that follow, filtered through the use of a magic square. The main theme of the first section is a quirky 12-note idea on the violin, followed by a more driving theme. A passage of plucked notes leads to another 12-note theme on bassoon. These themes are developed, and build into a wild dance, one of two dance-like passages in the work that owe a debt to Transylvanian folk music. They symbolize the life force that is only too apparent in young children.
The frisky, playful first section gives way to a short bassoon solo, leading to a slow middle section, marked 'mesto' or sad. A simple idea on the strings reflects a sense of loneliness, reinforced by bassoon melody that follows. A short double bass solo near the end is rudely interrupted by the opening of the third section, and a brief introduction leads to a lively 12-note theme on the violins. This toccata-like section is highly energetic in character, and includes a long-range accelerando in the dance passage. When the main theme returns it is abridged and channeled into a short, changeable coda.
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