Each of the works on our February 2014 program blossoms from the iconic arrangement, albeit in different ways, of four simple tones. The Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia for Violin and Viola is a set of virtuoso variations, above a bass tune from Handel’s Harpsichord Suite in G minor, HWV 432, by the Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen whose 100th anniversary we observe this season. The tune starts with g – e♭ – f – B♭, the same note intervals chimed by great clocks like Big Ben, and continues with e♭ – c – d – D – G. From there embellishments spread throughout both parts in equal measure.
The Mozart Divertimento in E-flat major for String Trio, arguably the first such effort for this combination in history, also begins with an iconic four-note theme played in descending hushed unisons and octaves at the start of the piece: e♭ – B♭ – G – E♭ before breaking into a harmonized texture. These four notes, in fact, form a simple arpeggio.
The Smetana Piano Trio in Gm Op. 15 is iconic in its own right as the impassioned tribute from a loving father for his daughter lost to illness. The sense of tragedy is captured from the start with the solo violin playing what amounts to a chromatic descent D, C♯, C, B at the start of its long and far-reaching melody.
That mighty trees can from small acorns grow is as true in art as in life.