Three by Three: The Debussy Trio

Three by Three flute, viola and harp CD cover

The Debussy Trio plays Thomas, Davis and Boughton

In the blue glen (2004) for flute, viola and harp.  22′
Premiere—2006, by Michele Frisch, flute; Kerri Ryan, viola; Kathy Kienzle, harp, Saint Paul, MN.
Commissioned anonymously “To honor gentle Kate (1923-2001).”
Published by Fatrock Ink.
Recorded on Klavier K 11206. Purchase from Fatrock Ink.

“With a straightforward, harmonically subversive opening, David Evan Thomas’s In the blue glen reaches ahead and pushes aside rough brambles. It reveals a lush area decorated with flutter-tonguing flute, warm viola, and idyllic strands of harp. Imitation is used mainly between the viola and flute across the four movements. With a medium tempo and pleasing tonalities, In the blue glen is the sound of quiet repose.” American Record Guide, March-April 2016

Program Note

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 I 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 flute, viola and harp combination 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.
The composer wishes to express his gratitude to the commissioner, and 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.


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Posted on

August 15, 2016

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