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
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.