Postcards (read review)


I. Venice Sinking


II. An Iceberg Drifting in the Arctic


III. Doma de Potros en La Pampa


I wrote this piece with the substance of a Characterstück in mind: the representation of a psychological state or the manifestation of an emotional landscape though music. Each of the three movements synthesize particular associations related to distant places. The first postcard, “sent” from doomed Venice, is a commentary on the inevitable decay of the tonal language and the Romantic Era. The symbolism is created through the disintegration of a typical, perhaps Mendelssohn-flavored, Venetian boat song. Heard first in the immediate foreground, the expansive melody in the right hand-partially disguised with broken octaves-demands a virtuoso pianist. Later, as the movement progresses, most musical parameters (melody, tonality, texture, motivic design, and above all, register and speed) gently “dissolve” and “sink.” As shining domes and proud towers are inexorably engulfed by the water, a few sparkling glimpses of the lost splendor can still be seen under the surface of the water, gradually losing their focus, then disappearing. The movement ends when the fragment of one heavy stone pillar reaches the bottom of the sea.

The second postcard was conceived as a sound-sculpture. The resulting masses of sound, slowly shifting their colors and densities, represent the enigmatic loneliness of a silent iceberg, drifting aloof and at last disappearing into the horizon of a timeless ocean.

Doma de Potros en La Pampa (which can be loosely translated as "Rodeo in La Pampa") completes the three-movement cycle with a strong rhythmic and dynamic contrast. The metallic and earthly echoes of a pure malambo criollo-a traditional folk rhythm-are the background for the confrontation between rider and horse. As the rider attempts to tame the animal, he is thrown off again and again. Just before the rousing conclusion, a nostalgic piano cadenza recalls the contemplative atmosphere of the previous movements. In this last postcard, the modern harmonies and thick “orchestral” textures are evocative of the music of Argentina’s foremost composer, Alberto Ginastera.

Copyright © 1998 & 1999 by Martin Kutnowski, ASCAP. All rights reserved.

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