In the blue glen (2004)
Flute, viola, harp
Commissioned anonymously “To honor gentle Kate (1923-2002)”
Premiere—Michele Frisch, flute; Kerri Ryan, viola; Kathy Kienzle, harp, Saint Paul, MN 2/06
Published by Fatrock Ink
Some ten miles on foot, and over a mile as the condor flies down from the rim of the Grand Canyon, Monument Creek has created an extraordinary playground: a narrow flume of bluish stone polished smooth as bone. I once spent an hour dabbling in that place—free, off the clock, out of sight—and it serves in memory as a metaphor for creative play.
In the blue glen was an anonymous commission, in which the only instructions were: write what you wish. Debussy invented the combination of flute, viola and harp in one of his last works, but its origins lie in the trio sonata: two contrasting melody instruments with a chording, rhythmic companion.
The work begins meditatively, with two searching melodic lines animated by the pulsing harp. Once under way, a sonata movement ensues with varied repeat, development and full-throated climax. A scherzo allows the melody instruments a moment’s play before taking off downstream. The “trio” begins, à la Haydn, as a rustic duo. In da capo, the various elements combine in superimposed meters.
The eddies of the melancholy third movement allow for expressive solos, duos and trios, as well as several fountains. The climax is less substance than feeling, less idea than song. The movement ends in detachment, but proceeds without pause to the finale as the harp introduces a simple, rocking tune, beginning with the interval of a falling fourth.
Thanks to harpist Kathy Kienzle, whose advice has been invaluable in shaping the harp part. In the blue glen received its premiere on February 28, 2006, in Saint Paul, Minnesota by Ms. Kienzle, with Michele Frisch, flute and Kerri Ryan, viola.