Clare Shore's Cycle de Vie for bassoon and string quartet
Date of completion: January 26, 1989; Approximate Duration: 13'
commissioned by an anonymous patron for Truman Harris
and National Musical Arts, to whom the work is dedicated
With the bassoon always as protagonist, the musical characters interact in much the same ways as do human beings during the various
stages of the life cycle, from a 'simultaneous monologue' type of conversation in childhood during which youngsters listen and contribute to
one another's ideas only occasionally, to violent clashes and rapidly changing moods of adolescence and passions of early adulthood, to a
more peaceful coexistence with one's peers upon maturity, finally culminating in the acceptance of solitude and communication with one's
inner self during the latter days of life.
The one-movement structure begins in the Lydian mode and during the opening section gradually embraces all twelve notes of the chromatic
scale. Unison cadence points from the beginning to the end of the movement outline the notes of the finally arrived at series. A two-part 'canon'
heard first in the tremolo violins marks the beginning of the middle section and serves as a unifying thread to the end of the section while
different characters fade in and out of focus. From the beginning of the middle section to the end of the piece, two hexachords, one in the bassoon,
the other in the non-canonic voices, undergo continuous development by 'borrowing' material from one another, one note at a time, until a point
of neutrality is reached.
Cycle de Vie was premiered by National Musical Arts at the National Academy of Sciences
in Washington, DC, on May 20, 1989, with Truman Harris, bassoon; Elisabeth Adkins and
Sally McLain, violins; Denise Wilkinson, viola; and David Teie, 'cello.
Excerpts from the recording, due for release on CD:
(after listening to each, click on "back" arrow to return to this page)
1st excerpt (mm. 1-22); 2nd excerpt (mm. 64-86); 3rd excerpt (mm. 119-135); 4th excerpt (mm. 151-172)
Recorded by Truman Harris, bassoon; Elisabeth Adkins and
Sally McLain, violins; Denise Wilkinson, viola; David Teie, 'cello
WASHINGTON POST, Peter Dobrin: "Cycle de Vie...appealing coloristic explorations..." (5/23/89)
PALM BEACH ARTS PAPER Donald Waxman: "Shore’s intimate and subtle chamber piece [Cycle de Vie]
... depicts the interactions we have with one another in the main stages of our lives, from the random interactions
of childhood to the turbulence of adolescence, the passions of young adulthood, the more subdued interations
of the middle age and finally, the lonely introspection of old age… The composition is a complex one … with
elements of serial (12-tone) techniques used within an elusive tonal framework. The bassoon is the protagonist
of this 12-minute work, playing almost without pause an elaborate solo part that is constantly traversing the
three-octave range of the instrument. Surrounding the bassoon part is a recurring instrumental texture with the
cello playing a plucked bass, the first violin playing soft counter-themes in high register, and in the middle ranges
the second violin and viola often playing held notes, windows through which the bassoon line passes ... (10/16/13)
Publisher: Watchfyr Music
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