Program Note

Palimpsest refers to a parchment upon which new material has been inscribed over the old, presumably the previous text is no longer visible. I have developed the definition to insinuate that the spirit of the old text is still present as a ghost, hovering over the life of the new. Unlike the two earlier trios which use recognizable material borrowed from Mozart (Piano Trio No. 1 from 1980) or from Irish tradition (Piano Trio No 2. "Drowsey Maggie" from 1989), the musical fabric of this piece tends toward a kind of musical neutrality. It is as though a synthesis of styles has occurred, much as a kind of blending of old and new text in a real palimpsest.

Although Palimpsest is in the traditional three-movement form, the concept of slow music versus fast occurs within each movement rather than in the relationship of movements. Movement I begins like a French overture and becomes fast, while Movement II is mostly slow with fast interruptions, and the Finale attempts to build on accumulated forward momentum which is then thwarted and revived. Throughout the entire piece, the thematic material is continually being chewed up and developed so that it is often difficult to identify the source of a particular melodic fragment. Like the ancient parchment, my Palimpsest partially erases the definite identity of a given theme in order to give way to a synthetic process of assimilation. To some extent I experiment with this process in the slow revelation of the "Drowsey Maggie" tune in Piano Trio No. 2 , except that it produced a goal oriented finale. Here the goal is sacrificed for a more stylistically integrated development that emulates a kind of cinematic seamlessness.

Palimpsest was commissioned by Walter Verdehr and Michigan State University for the Verdehr Trio.

You can also read about Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr, the clarinetist of the Trio.


Check out the pieces mentioned here in The Reale Catalog.